The U.S. Department of Education wrote in its June 10 letter to Lehigh that it is aware of complaints that allege that Lehigh engaged in a “pattern of conduct that resulted in serious violations of the Clery Act.”
The letter announced the Clery Group of the Department of Education — the division responsible for enforcing the Clery Act — was opening a review into Lehigh to determine the university’s compliance with the law. Lehigh then made the June 10 letter public on June 14 in a statement. The letter was sent to President John Simon and was signed by Lisa Bureau, the acting director of the Clery Group.
The review is wide in scope. The “initial examination period” will cover the calendar years reflected in the university’s 2017, 2018 and 2019 annual campus security reports.
“The scope of the review may be adjusted at any time and additional records and information from other calendar years may be required as the case progresses,” the DOE wrote in its letter.
The letter states the DOE will require “unrestricted access to unredacted copies” of records pertaining to Lehigh’s compliance with the Clery Act. Failure to cooperate will result in “administrative action” taken against the school, which includes but is not limited to a “formal fine.”
Lehigh says it will cooperate fully “throughout the process.”
In addition to the complaints the DOE says it has received, the letter also states the Clery Group has monitored media coverage of crimes and other incidents on campus.
“Taken together, the complaints and media accounts raise serious concerns about Lehigh’s compliance and the effects that any violations may have on victims of crime and the accuracy and completeness of the university’s crime statistics and other campus safety information,” the letter said.
The DOE says it does not have a completion date set for the review. A final report of the probe’s findings will be produced “at a later date.”
The DOE laid out a number of items the university is required to produce within the next month. Of note is “a list of all incident reports, complaints, and/or other statements of concern, regardless of their form, that were filed with any official of Lehigh University regarding the alleged misconduct of any kind by Lehigh University faculty (including Dr. Peterson and Dr. Novak) and copies of all such reports, complaints or other communications and any corresponding supplemental documentation.”
The Brown and White has extensively covered the allegations made against James Peterson, a former Lehigh professor, and Thomas Novak, the former interim director of the Health Center, along with the university’s handling of both matters. Both men faced allegations of sexual misconduct and the university itself has faced allegations that administrators were aware of such complaints and failed to act.
Both matters also prompted litigation against Lehigh. Monica Miller, an associate professor in religion studies, sued Lehigh following a chain of events triggered by Peterson’s alleged sexual misconduct and his subsequent being placed on paid leave. Lehigh ultimately won the year-long legal battle this past February.
A Brown and White investigative report published this past March found the university was aware of allegations of sexual assault against Peterson for months before closing an investigation into him without providing notice to the school — only to open the investigation back up a few weeks later and levy disciplinary action. Peterson was also promoted while under investigation.
Christine Feit, a former certified medical assistant at Lehigh’s Health Center, sued the university for $1.7 million. She alleged Novak harassed her and that she was retaliated against for reporting Novak’s behavior. It appears, based on the latest developments in court, that she is engaged in settlement discussions with Lehigh.
Some of the other items Lehigh must turn over include the call logs and crime logs of Lehigh Police going back to 2014, a complete list of all emergency notifications the university has sent out since 2014, contracts and Memoranda of Understanding Lehigh has entered into, LUPD standard operating procedures and copies of educational and training materials related to rape and bystander intervention.
Lehigh noted the DOE review is separate from the internal review the university agreed to conduct of LUPD in efforts to make the school “anti-racist.”
Lehigh will be required to produce records on a “rolling basis” and must make the appropriate officials available to answer questions via phone or video conference.
“Access to the right people and information is essential to an effective and efficient review,” the letter states. “Furthermore, we ask that you take appropriate steps to ensure that no university official or agent encumbers or obstructs the review in any way.”
Simon will be required to attend an initial meeting with the DOE team assigned to review Lehigh. The DOE noted in its letter that the Clery review is separate and distinct from anything else, including the department’s Office of Civil Rights review into Lehigh following vandalism at the Umoja House in 2013.