Many UC Davis students are aware that their campus ranks highest among all UCs in terms of sexual assaults committed on and around campus. The numbers were surprising for a fairly small college town where most people feel safe leaving their doors unlocked. But in 2007, 69 sexual assaults were reported, more than the amount at every other UC combined.
At a press conference last Thursday, UC Davis officials announced that the data for sexual assaults in 2007 had been significantly inflated. The numbers are part of the Clery report, which is a federally mandated report of crimes that occur on and around a college’s campus.
Numbers were reportedly inflated for data on forcible sexual assaults in 2006 and 2005 as well, with the actual numbers for each showing less than half of those reported.
The new 2008 report found that the number of forcible sex offenses was 27, a decrease from 33 the previous year. This, however, was still the highest of all UC campuses.
Jennifer Beeman, former director of Campus Violence Prevention Program, was responsible for the inflation of reports, said Robert Loessberg-Zahl, assistant executive vice chancellor at the press conference.
When asked about possible reasons for Beeman’s over-reporting of sexual assaults, officials declined to speculate.
“We have not talked to [Beeman] because there’s no need to find out why [the reports] are inaccurate. We just need to find out whether [the reports] were inaccurate or not,” said Mitchel Benson, assistant vice chancellor of university communications in a previous article.
Beeman, who retired from her position in June, did not respond to request for comment.
At roughly the same time University officials announced the inaccurate reports, news also surfaced that Beeman was under investigation by the UC Davis Internal Audit Services in response to allegations that she had improperly charged travel expenses to a federal grant totaling $1,372. Beeman reimbursed the University for the full amount as a result of the investigation.
Because of these allegations, Beeman was placed on administrative leave with pay on Dec. 11, 2008. Shortly thereafter, she was moved to medical leave with pay, where she remained until her retirement on June 9 of the current year.
It is the university’s practice not to initiate disciplinary action with employees on medical leave.
The findings regarding these erroneous travel expenses led to the launch of a second investigation, the details of which have not been released due to its ongoing status. These investigations are “not related” to the incident of inflated statistics disclosed last Thursday, campus officials said.
UC Davis has submitted the erroneous Clery statistics to the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) and Department of Justice for review and any potential action. It is also running both an internal and external review of the Clery numbers.
The UC Davis Police Department has conducted an internal review of the reports. The external review will be conducted by Dolores Stafford, police chief of George Washington University and a nationally respected expert on the Clery Act.
If deemed appropriate by the DOE, the university could be charged civil damages of up to $25,000 per incident, although according to a spokesperson they rarely levy the fines. If the university does have to pay for the discrepancies, it may consider seeking restitution from Beeman, said Benson in an article by the Sacramento Bee.
“The DOE could still come in and say that the public was misled as to the true nature and extent of campus crime,” said Brett Sokolo, president of the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management.
“That equates to a substantial misrepresentation,” said Sokolo in a previous article. “Under the standard for fines that the DOE uses, they could fine [the university]. Now that doesn’t mean that Davis is going to be fined, it doesn’t even mean that Davis may be in violation, but it does mean under investigations that have happened to other colleges and universities that that potential exists.“
Officials stated that Beeman’s lack of supervision was due to her belief that involving any third parties would be a violation of victims‘ privacy. However, in light of the resulting unsubstantiated reports, a new panel of campus experts has been assembled to review cases and report Clery statistics.
The motivation behind these falsified reports remains unknown. Annette Spicuzza, chief of the UC Davis Police, stated that CVPP did not necessarily benefit from the data.
“I do not believe there was any monetary gain,” Spicuzza said. “What was done with these numbers is anyone’s guess now.“
Officials repeatedly emphasized that the program is a significant benefit to the university and that Beeman’s “poor decision making,” as Spicuzza said, should not reflect the standards of the program.
However, Beeman was no stranger to inflated numbers, and in addition to the current case and her improper travel expenses, another incident occurred in 1998.
According to a national estimate, 1 in 20 college women are the victims of rape or attempted rape. Beeman used this to justify citing 700 sexual assault cases in a successful application for a federal grant totaling $543,000. When confronted with the discrepancy between this number and the number of officially recorded cases – zero for 1998 – Beeman admitted to extrapolating from the national estimate and that she had intended to take it out of her application.
Regardless, officials continue to insist that the most recent disclosure was a remarkable occurrence.
“The problem with the reporting of these statistics was an isolated incident related solely to one individual,” Loessberg-Zahl said at the press conference.
The 2008 Clery statistics can be found online at police.ucdavis.edu/clery.htm.
BRIAN GERSON and LAUREN STEUSSY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.