MELBOURNE, Fla. - The Florida Institute of Technology is dealing with a controversy that is exposed in the January 14 issue of the student newspaper, The Crimson.
The cover story about campus crime is an example of investigative journalism bringing on real-life results. The administration and the federal government say there’s been a mistake and Florida Tech is facing big fines for it.
Florida Tech, like all federally funded colleges and universities, has to keep track of crimes on and near the school grounds and publish the numbers. Student journalists at The Crimson looked at the statistics for 2016 through 2018. They discovered at least 41 incidents that were not included. Three were alleged rapes or sexual assaults.
Florida Tech’s administration admits the information they made public was not accurate, a staff member has been fired over the discrepancies, another has resigned. Under federal law, Florida Tech will be fined $57,000 for each crime that didn't get reported.
The Crimson’s reporting also dived-in on the issue of victim shaming, or victims of crimes who say they were not taken seriously. University Spokesman, Wes Sumner, spoke with FOX 35 News to address that problem.
"We as a university apologize to those individuals, we take this so seriously and we don’t want anyone to feel that way, and we commit to them and to everyone in the Florida Tech community, that moving forward, this situation will be remedied," Sumner said.
Olivia Mckelvey, Emily Walker, and Kevin Boodoosingh worked on the investigation, gaining the trust of the victims -who became sources- detailing the sexual assaults.
"We don’t want to make the reporting about us, but it was cool to see everybody suddenly taking an interest in journalism and acknowledging that it still has an important role in our everyday lives," Walker said.
"Since we broke the story, we’ve had three other sources come forward as well," Walker said.
"The story has done a lot for The Crimson, it’s also done a lot for the campus community as a whole," Boodoosingh said.
Indeed, The Crimson’s story is sparking conversations among students, and some young women we talked with say attitudes are changing on the heels of the expose.
Florida Tech will find out soon the exact dollar amount of the federal fines. Administrators say, despite the controversy, they are proud of their journalists.