By Olivia McKelvey, Emily Walker and Kevin Boodoosingh
This story was written as a collaboration between FLORIDA TODAY and The Crimson. FLORIDA TODAY investigative reporter, Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon, worked alongside Crimson reporters: Emily Walker, outgoing editor-in-chief of The Crimson and 2019 graduate, Olivia McKelvey, incoming editor-in-chief of The Crimson (class of 2020) and Kevin Boodoosingh, managing editor of The Crimson (class of 2020). They collaborated to make records requests, consult experts and interview students who had reported crimes.
In collaboration with FLORIDA TODAY, the daily newspaper serving Brevard County, reporters uncovered at least 41 reported crimes that were not included within Florida Tech’s 2019 Annual Security and Fire Safety Reports, an error that could cost the university millions of dollars.
The Department of Education is able to fine universities $57,317 per incident of under-reporting, and with at least 41 incidents of under-reporting at Florida Tech—and the potential for there to be more—the university could be fined roughly $2.3 million depending on whether or not the Department of Education conducts an investigation and determines an outcome.
An investigation conducted by FLORIDA TODAY working alongside Crimson reporters led to the discovery of additional under-reporting of crimes other than just rape and hate crimes. Reporters cross referenced reports of crime from Melbourne police records, Palm Bay police records and Florida Tech’s campus security crime logs from 2016 through 2018 and compared them to what statistics were published in the 2019 Annual Security and Fire Safety Reports.
***Editor’s Note: FLORIDA TODAY and The Crimson incorrectly reported that the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office had not responded to a record request from a Florida Tech Crimson reporter. The initial records request was sent Dec. 5 with follow up emails and telephone calls on Dec. 7, Dec. 12, Dec. 17 and Jan. 9. The BCSO response to the initial request went to the reporter’s SPAM folder on Dec. 26 and was missed until this week. The response showed that BCSO received no Clery Act requests from Florida Tech in 2019. FLORIDA TODAY and The Crimson regrets the mistake.
Data revealed that there were at least 41 cases of reported crimes not included in the 2019 Annual Security and Fire Safety Reports in multiple categories, including rape, stalking, dating violence, aggravated assault, arson, robbery, burglaries and motor vehicle theft. Since data could not be obtained from the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office, the number of underreported crimes could be higher.
There were zero reports of incidents falling under the categories counted as hate crimes, despite at least one incident of vandalism that was investigated by Melbourne police as a hate crime.
Drug and liquor law violations, as well as weapons violations, were not examined for this data analysis.
In emails sent by Florida Tech security officers to local law enforcement agencies such as Melbourne Police Department and Palm Bay Police Department, reports of rape, sex crimes, domestic violence and stalking were not requested—all of which are categories that must be requested under Clery law. Although these categories were not requested, both law agencies provided Florida Tech with those particular statistics from 2016 through 2018. The majority of these statistics were not included within Florida Tech’s 2019 Annual Security and Fire Safety Reports.
“The problem looks like one of a very sloppy process,” said S. Daniel Carter, the president of Safety Advisors for Educational Campuses, LLC and who worked with the Department of Education as a key player in writing federal regulations for the Clery Act.
Carter also mentioned that the under-reporting of crimes and unorganized method of obtaining data is a common theme nationwide at universities. He also said that the university could still be held liable by the Department of Education for “lack of administrative capacity.”
Florida Tech Clery Act Violations
The Clery Act is a federal law that requires federally funded colleges and universities in the United States to publish statistics regarding reports of crime on and around campuses annually. Clery law requires that all reports of crime must be published within the annual report, regardless of whether or not charges were pressed.
Due to the fact that Florida Tech receives federal funding, it is required to publish an annual security report for both students and employees every Oct. 1. This report covers the past three years of data. The most recent report included data from 2016 through 2018.
Florida Tech gathers data from campus security, the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office, Melbourne Police Department and Palm Bay Police Department.
Since the annual report was released, three students have come forward with reports of rape on campus that were not counted in the annual report. Additionally, another student has come forward with a report of a hate crime that was not cited within the annual report.
Each incident of a failure to include a reported crime in the annual Clery report can result in the U.S. Department of Education imposing a fine of $57,317.
Four students have come forward to share three reports of rape and one of vandalism. Two have chosen to remain anonymous while two have gone on record with their names.
Those with reports of rape all shared similar feelings of invalidation when seeing that their reports of rape, all of which occured between 2016 and 2018, were not included within the 2019 Annual Security and Fire Safety Reports.
“The fact that it wasn’t reported—it’s sad,” one rape survivor said. “Like I say, it just goes to show that they only really care about the money they’re getting from us.”
In addition to issues with under-reporting within the annual report, the students brought up concerns regarding the lack of assistance they felt they were given from the then Florida Tech’s Title IX coordinator, Linda Jancheson, as well as accounts of what they described as “victim shaming” during initial investigations from campus security.
“Even if you didn’t sign off on [the report] or you didn’t know that the underreporitng was happening, you are the head of the Title IX office,” said Nicole Farnsworth, a 19-year-old forensic psychology student who reported her statutory rape to Melbourne police in 2018. “You have a job to do and you haven’t been doing that job.”
Another student, who was raped on campus in 2017, said campus security asked her questions regarding what she was wearing.
“I felt victim shamed,” she said. “I lost complete respect for the school.”
Evangeline Archer, a transgender aerospace engineering student, said her car was parked on campus in November 2018 when she found it spray-painted with slurs. Both campus security and Melbourne police took pictures and made reports of the incident. Melbourne police investigated the incident as a hate crime, yet it was not listed in Florida Tech’s 2019 Annual Security and Fire Safety Reports.
“I feel like [Florida Tech], they’re very supportive of the LGBT community until there’s something they have to actually do,” Archer said in an interview with FLORIDA TODAY.
Florida Tech President T. Dwayne McCay told FLORIDA TODAY that it was “difficult to justify incompetence and gross negligence.”
McCay also said that an internal investigation is currently underway.
Frank Iannone, Florida Tech’s director of security, said that he first became aware of discrepancies in the data in August of 2019 and all available crime data is being reexamined.
“I’m telling you right now, this won’t occur again,” Iannone told FLORIDA TODAY.
McCay said the university will implement changes such as retraining and employee turnover. Additionally, after the internal review is complete, an external reviewer will be contracted this year.
While McCay said that the university has no indication that anyone intentionally altered the data, he added in the FLORIDA TODAY interview, “Some people just didn’t do their job. And those people’s jobs are in jeopardy.”
Since FLORIDA TODAY’s publication on Jan. 10, an email was sent to the student body from Patrick Healy, Florida Tech’s general council, alerting them that Fanak Baarmand, Florida Tech’s risk and compliance manager, had been assigned as the new Title IX coordinator.
Florida Tech’s online staff directory shows Jancheson is currently employee relations manager in Human Resources.
Jancheson did not respond to requests for interviews from FLORIDA TODAY and The Crimson.
Moving forward, one student whose rape went unreported in Florida Tech’s 2019 Annual Security and Fire Safety Reports said, “All I can do now is hope that the university will truly recognize how wrong this is and people will be aware.”
According to McCay and Iannone, administration plans to request to re-open Florida Tech’s crime statistics on the Department of Education website to enter the corrected data while providing a disclaimer as to why corrections were made. A new 2019 Annual Security and Fire Safety Reports will then be issued out to all students, staff and faculty.
McCay told FLORIDA TODAY that he was “ashamed” of what has happened and went on to state, “I don’t know what to do about it, except repair it, fix it. And, and I apologize.”
If you have made a report to Security or Title IX and feel it has not been handled correctly, visit endrapeoncampus.org/the-clery-act to file a complaint.
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If you feel you have experienced something similar as described in this piece and would like to speak with us, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-4673
Women’s Center Counseling 321-242-1526
National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233