Eastern Michigan University violated federal law on "numerous" occasions by failing to alert students of a dorm room homicide and by underreporting campus rapes for three years, according a U.S. Department of Education report released Tuesday.
The report paints a picture of a university with widespread, historical problems with campus security laws and contradicts previous statements by the university's embattled president, John Fallon, who told lawyers that he wasn't aware the campus death was a homicide.
The rape and murder of student Laura Dickinson, 22, prompted the federal investigation into violations of the Clery Act, which requires universities to issue timely warnings of campus crimes.
Dickinson's body was found in her dorm Dec. 15, naked from the waist down with a pillow over her head. An EMU release said "there is no reason to suspect foul play."
"Not only did EMU fail to disclose information that would enable the campus community to make informed decisions to protect themselves, but it issued misleading statements from the outset, providing false reassurance that foul play was not suspected, and that it had no knowledge of an ongoing criminal/homicide investigation prior to the arrest of the suspect," the report said.
The report is likely to bolster calls for Fallon's resignation. The faculty council issued a vote of no confidence in June. The board of regents has yet to say when it will take action. Fallon, who could not be reached for comment, has said he wants to keep his job.
"He compounded our pain," Dickinson's older brother Josh said of Fallon's handling of the death. "That's just exactly how we feel."
Laura Dickinson's boyfriend, Travis Scott, said the report sheds more light on how poorly the university handled the death and its rush to cover it up.
"Now more than ever, everyone finally knows what went on," he said. "I'm sorry it had to take this for them to own up to what they're responsible for."
The university has 30 days to respond. Then the Department of Education will issue its final report within 45 days, said EMU Regent James Stapleton. It can levy fines of up to $27,500 for each violation of the Clery Act and may cut off federal financial aid programs.
"The university got many things associated with the Clery Act wrong, and now it's our charge to make the changes necessary to make EMU a safe environment for students, faculty and staff," Stapleton said.
The report also found EMU underreported the number of forcible sex offenses on campus from 2003-05, and underreported to students and employees the numbers of drug and liquor arrests in 2005 compared with what it reported to the Department of Education.
EMU also lacked proper warning policies and policy statements and failed to update its crime log. For example, the crime log entry for Dec. 15, when Dickinson's body was found, was documented as a "medical assist."
The report's findings echo those of an investigation by the Detroit law firm Butzel Long.
The review, commissioned by the regents, also found EMU violated the Clery Act when it didn't correct the "no foul play" statement until a fellow student was charged with Dickinson's rape and murder on Feb. 23.
The arrest stunned the EMU community and even Dickinson's family, who had believed, based on communication with EMU officials, their daughter had died of natural causes.
"EMU remained silent despite the fact that its university police department had identified a suspect and had been engaged in a homicide investigation with other local law enforcement agencies," the report said.
Within three days of finding Dickinson's body, police concluded Dickinson was likely raped and murdered, the report said.
Two weeks later, police identified Orange Taylor III, 20, as a suspect based on surveillance tapes from the residence hall.
The report said the Michigan State Police alerted Fallon that Dickinson's death was investigated as a homicide, a finding that contradicts the Butzel Long report, in which Fallon said he relied on Vice President of Student Affairs Jim Vick for information and didn't know the police were engaged in a homicide investigation.
"Despite EMU having knowledge of a potential suspect who may have been in possession of the victim's residence hall keys and who was also a student attending classes at EMU, no information was disclosed to the campus community to advise it of the possible safety threat," states the Department of Education report.
The campus crime watchdog group Security On Campus, which filed the federal complaint against EMU, applauded the findings. Three universities have been fined for Clery Act violations since it was enacted in 1990.
Howard Bunsis, president of the EMU's professors union, believes EMU Public Safety Chief Cindy Hall, Fallon, Vick and EMU attorney Ken McKanders should lose their jobs.
"The Department of Education report is a scathing indictment against EMU's handling of the murder investigation, as it found seven critical violations of the Clery Act which could result in fines to EMU ranging from the tens of thousands to several millions," Bunsis said.
Hall and Vick were unavailable for comment.