Final report finds Eastern Michigan Univ. violated Clery Act

The U.S. Department of Education issued its final report Nov. 20 to EasternMichigan University, detailing the school’s violations of the federal Clery Actin failing to properly notify the campus about an investigation into thehomicide of a student who was killed in campus housing.

In December 2006, Laura Dickinson’s body was found in her dormitory room.Though circumstances surrounding the case prompted law enforcement toinvestigate the death as a homicide, university officials told her parents andthe campus community that no foul play was suspected.

The Clery Act requires colleges that receive federal funds to collect andrelease information about campus crime and to issue warnings about threats tocampus safety. The DOE report listed seven findings of violations of that law,including failure to issue a “timely warning” to the campus community that apossible crime had occurred, absence of a “timely warning” policy, misreportingcrime statistics in its annual report and failure to provide adequate policystatements on safety.

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SPLC View: This was an especially egregious case of deception.Thankfully, the Department of Education appears to have thought so as well,though the proof of that will come when the agency determines EMU’s penalty. Theclimate of secrecy and deception surrounding campus crime that permeated so manycollege and university campuses over the last couple of decades may —thanks to rulings such as this —finally be changing. Still, enforcementtools such as the Clery Act only work where there is active oversight, a task inwhich student news media must play a major role.