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editorial

RCC’s poor reporting may be a sign of systemic problems

Roxbury Community College administrators have been operating under their own set of sloppy, self-serving rules, even at the expense of student safety. Just how sloppy can be gleaned from a Monday report by Globe reporter Mary Carmichael highlighting the failure of the community college to document several allegations of sexual assault.

For the past 11 years, RCC did not report a single sex-crime allegation to the federal Department of Education. The absence of dorms and the presence of many working, part-time students on the Roxbury campus might indicate a lower incidence of student-centered sexual assault than at other colleges. But federal education officials are examining five alleged sexual transgressions by staffers at the college. In 2010, a former student brought forward an amply documented accusation against Orikaye Brown-West, the college’s former director of facilities and public safety. But like other complaints, it evaporated along with the personnel papers of three of the accused employees.

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Since 1990, the federal Clery Act has required any college or university that participates in federal financial aid programs to collect, classify, and count crime reports and statistics; publish an annual security report; and submit accurate crime statistics to the Department of Education. RCC doesn’t get a pass. The law applies equally to fancy $50,000-a-year private colleges and low-cost community colleges. Any attempt to cover up crimes on the urban campus should be treated as seriously as similar efforts by the most prestigious, image-conscious colleges.

The law requires the reporting of crimes both on and around campuses. That can be a disadvantage for colleges that, like RCC, are located in low-income areas with high crime rates. But the alleged crimes at RCC reflect directly on the college and its staff, not the surrounding community. Equally disturbing, campus whistleblowers are charging that administrators at the college threatened their jobs should they step forward.

Former RCC president Terrence Gomes resigned in June. And Governor Patrick recently appointed several new members to the college’s board. But the campus remains tainted by recent reports of irregularities in the distribution of financial aid as well as by the allegations of sexual crimes. The shakeup shouldn’t stop with the president’s office and board. The failures appear marbled throughout the college.

Some of the college’s supporters take umbrage at the suggestion that RCC would be better off under the administrative umbrella of the Bunker Hill Community College, a competently run institution in Charlestown. But why protect a college that won’t offer similar consideration to its students?

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