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

MICHIGAN -- Eastern Michigan University will pay $350,000 in federal fines for failing to disclose crime information in violation of the Clery 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 EMU has made during the past year in regards to Clery Act Compliance," said university provost and executive vice president Don Loppnow in a press release issued Friday.

The $350,000 is slightly less than the original $357,500 fine proposed by the DOE in a Dec. 14 letter to the university. Within the letter, the DOE called the university's conduct an "egregious violation, which endangered the entire EMU campus community."

EMU was cited for 13 violations stemming from the investigation that followed the death of Laura Dickinson in her Hill Residence Hall room in December 2006. The violations range from failing to issue a timely warning to the 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 civil lawsuit with the Dickinson family for $2.5 million, according to the Ann Arbor News.

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

The EMU police department "immediately determined the death to be suspicious in nature," the DOE said. But a day after Dickinson's body was found the university issued a statement saying there was "no reason to suspect foul play."

In addition, the June 2007 DOE report concluded that the university did not provide "relevant information to the campus community that would alert it of a potential safety threat." The report cites this failing as a clear violation of the Clery Act.

The Clery Act is a federal law that requires any university taking federal money to disclose information about crime on campus, including annual statistics and "timely warnings" to the campus community about serious ongoing threats.

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

Eastern Michigan University, Michigan, news