Audit knocks Pa. state colleges’ compliance with campus safety laws

Pennsylvania’s 14 state-owned universities must do more to comply with federal laws meant to ensure campus safety, according to a new report from the state auditor general.

 

The audit finds uneven adherence to Title IX, which bans sex-based discrimination among the schools making up the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

Chancellor Frank Brogan said inconsistent policies on the federal law could lead to poor enforcement or even a willingness to skimp on oversight.

“There’s nothing worse than having a terrible outcome at an institution and have people say, ‘Had we only done it that way, perhaps this would not have been the case,'” Brogan said.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said the university system is mostly “on track,” but must “step up its game in order to ensure that every campus has consistent policies and procedures in place to adequately address instances of sexual discrimination and sexual violence.”

The report also reveals PASSHE ended internal audits to check on its compliance with another federal law – the Clery Act, which requires universities to keep daily crime logs and publish an annual crime report.

The auditor general’s report emphasizes that internal audits can help universities prove their compliance with the Clery Act – a prized tool, since individual universities can be fined $35,000 for each breach of the law.

Brogan said the audits were paused in 2013 temporarily to review crime reporting policies. He said they’ll start up again “immediately.”

Another portion of the auditor general’s report commends the university system for its efforts to cut costs, for example, by offering early retirement incentives and suspending certain academic programs. But DePasquale said that in a time of “stagnant” state funding, PASSHE must do more to keep tuition low and enrollment high.

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