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State audit: Sonoma State University failed to report campus sexual assault, other crimes

Officials at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park omitted several crimes from the school’s annual security report in 2019, including a sexual assault reported that year, according to a new report published by the California State Auditor.

The university tallied 50 criminal offenses in its 2019 report, the most recent year for which data are available. But at least three alleged crimes that occurred that year were left off the list, according to the report released late last month by State Auditor Elaine Howle.

The SSU official overseeing campus crime statistics told auditors that the assault was not included in the report because the location of the incident wasn’t clearly reported by campus police. But Howle’s review found that the assault occurred in a campus dorm room and should have been published in the school’s safety report.

SSU’s failure to report an alleged sexual assault on campus was “especially troubling” because students and staff were not warned about the incident, the report said.

“When an institution fails to report crimes occurring on or near its campus, interested parties — such as current and prospective employees and students — may be unaware of serious incidents that could affect their health and safety,“ Howle wrote.

The university also failed to publish complete daily crime logs, the audit found. Auditors reviewed 15 incidents reported on the campus and found that six of them were not included in the daily logs.

The incomplete logs “may be contributing to an incorrect understanding of campus safety,” Howle wrote.

Missy Brunetta, SSU’s emergency services director, said school officials are planning to implement changes recommended by Howle in response to the audit’s findings. The university plans to include incidents reported to officials in any department on campus in the daily crime logs. Previously, the logs included only crimes reported to campus police, Brunetta said.

SSU is also aiming to improve communication about campus crimes between officials in various departments, according to Brunetta.

“These are really important statistics,” said Julia Gonzales, a SSU spokeswoman. “It’s vital that this information is accurate.”

Gonzales said school officials use campus crime statistics to determine which services to provide for students.

Burglary was the most common campus crime reported by SSU in 2019, with 27 incidents that year. There were 16 reports of rape, three reports of fondling and two reports of aggravated assaults.

The university was one of four California schools named in the auditor’s report for publishing inaccurate or incomplete campus crime statistics.

San Joaquin Delta College, Santa Clara University and the University of California, Irvine also did not properly report annual crime data as required by federal law, the report said.

The audit also found that Santa Clara’s daily crime logs were incomplete. A review of 30 incidents found five missing from the published data.

Howle’s office reviewed campus crime data from six colleges and universities in its audit. Two schools included in the review, Alliant International University and Cañada College, did not publish annual crime records.

The report did not say why SSU was selected for the audit, but it said the review targeted public and private schools from across the state.

You can reach Staff Writer Matt Pera at matthew.pera@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @Matt__Pera.

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