Eastern Mich. U agrees to largest-ever fine for violations of crime reporting law

MICHIGAN — Eastern Michigan University will pay $350,000 infederal fines for failing to disclose crime information in violation of theClery Act, the largest such fine ever.

“We’re pleased to have arrived at an agreement with the [U.S. Department of Education] and we appreciate their recognition of the progress and improvements that EMUhas made during the past year in regards to Clery Act Compliance,” saiduniversity provost and executive vice president Don Loppnow in a press releaseissued Friday.

The $350,000 is slightly less than the original $357,500 fine proposedby the DOE in a Dec. 14 letter to the university. Within the letter, the DOEcalled the university’s conduct an “egregious violation, whichendangered the entire EMU campus community.”

EMU was cited for 13 violations stemming from the investigation thatfollowed the death of Laura Dickinson in her Hill Residence Hall room inDecember 2006. The violations range from failing to issue a timely warning tothe campus community in the Dickinson case to failing to properly disclose crime statistics. Some of the violations dated back as far as 2003.

In addition to the DOE fines, the university agreed to settle a civillawsuit with the Dickinson family for $2.5 million, according to the AnnArbor News.

On Dec. 15, 2006, custodian Michelle Lockwood found Dickinson dead in herroom. At the second murder trial of Orange Taylor III, Lockwood testified thatshe found a woman, later identified as Dickinson, lying on the floor, naked fromthe waist down. Taylor was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.

The EMU police department “immediately determined the death to besuspicious in nature,” the DOE said. But a day after Dickinson’sbody was found the university issued a statement saying there was “noreason to suspect foul play.”

In addition, the June 2007 DOE report concluded that the university did notprovide “relevant information to the campus community that would alert itof a potential safety threat.” The report cites this failing as a clearviolation of the Clery Act.

The Clery Act is a federal law that requires any university taking federalmoney to disclose information about crime on campus, including annual statisticsand “timely warnings” to the campus community about serious ongoingthreats.

The misleading public report in the Dickinson case led to the dismissal ofthen-university president John Fallon and the ouster of two other officials. Fallon has filed a lawsuit against theuniversity claiming his rights were violated under the Michigan WhistleblowersProtection Act.