Cal Lutheran security report recalculates violations

Ellie Long, Editor in Chief

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Eagle-eyed readers of California Lutheran University’s annual security report may have noticed something amiss: the numbers between the 2019 and 2018 reports in one crime statistic category did not match up. 

The 2019 report, released on Oct. 1, stated that three students in 2017 and two students in 2016 were referred for disciplinary action due to liquor law violations. In comparison, the 2018 report stated that there were 96 violations in 2017 and 54 in 2016. 

The changed statistics were due to an internal audit on liquor law violations that took place in September 2019, said Director of Campus Safety David Hilke in an email interview.

“We periodically re-examine our policies regarding Clery reporting to make sure we continue to report our information correctly. As part of this effort, I researched the definition of Liquor Law Violations Referred for Disciplinary Action and discovered that we may have been over-reporting our numbers by including incidents where minors are found in possession of alcohol in the residence halls,” Hilke said. 

California law only prohibits minors from possessing alcohol “on any street or highway or in any public place or in any place open to the public,” according to the California legislative information website. 

“Campus residence halls are not open to the public, therefore, minors in possession of alcohol in campus residence halls – while in violation of CLU’s policy and subject to discipline thereunder– are not in violation of California law,” Hilke said. 

The federal Clery Act, which governs the annual reporting of campus crime statistics, only requires campuses to report violations of state law. According to the 2019-2020 Cal Lutheran Student Handbook, all possession and consumption of alcohol is prohibited on campus, even for those over 21, with some exceptions for faculty, graduate students and special events. 

Hilke said all amended and original statistics were for minors. The amended statistics reflect only violations in public places. 

The report was up for 10 days before a note was added explaining the number discrepancy. The U.S. Department of Education’s [ED] Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting states that a note should be included with changed statistics, and that revised reports must be redistributed to students and employees.

On Oct. 10, students, faculty and staff were emailed amended versions of the 2017, 2018 and 2019 reports, with a note regarding the internal audit accompanying the data. 

“Although revised numbers were provided in the 2019 report published on October 1, a note regarding the revised statistics was inadvertently omitted. After communicating with the Department of Education regarding the revised numbers, the omitted note was discovered and corrected,” Hilke said.

The note and redistributed reports also followed contact on Oct. 8 from The Echo to Associate Vice President of Planning and Services Ryan Van Ommeren regarding the inconsistent numbers. 

Hilke said Campus Safety’s first priority was meeting the Oct. 1 deadline to distribute the report, as the deadline for submitting crime statistics to the ED was not until Oct. 16.  Hilke said the revised statistics and an explanation of the audit process was submitted to the ED before deadline.  

Hilke said the annual report is compiled in cooperation with local law enforcement and Residence Life and Student Conduct. 

Christina Hanna, assistant director of residence life and student conduct, said almost all alcohol violations involving Cal Lutheran students are processed by Residence Life, even if Campus Safety wrote the initial report. 

“Every time that we receive a documentation, we have to indicate if its Clery-reportable or not, and if so how many violations are indicated in that report,” Hanna said. 

Hanna said the university’s alcohol policy is reviewed every summer, and has not changed from the last academic year. As of now, she said she does not foresee it changing in the near future. 

Chris Paul, assistant dean of students and director of residence life, said via email that statistics on alcohol violations beyond what the annual security report includes were unavailable “due to confidentiality.” 

The Clery Act requires all U.S. colleges and universities to publish a report by Oct. 1 of each year containing “three years of campus crime statistics and certain campus security policy statements,” according to Cal Lutheran’s 2019 report. 

Overall, the 2019 report did not reveal significant differences in statistics between 2018 and previous years. The number of drug law violations referred for disciplinary action decreased slightly, from 13 in 2017 to four in 2018. There were three cases of known rape in residential facilities in 2018, compared to four in 2017. 

The full report can be found on Cal Lutheran’s website on the Campus Safety page, under “Crime & Fire Statistics.” 

Van Ommeren, who distributes the annual report, said via email that he was involved in writing the answers provided by Hilke in this article, and that those answers could be considered his as well.