Education Law

Report: College Concealed Murder, Violating Federal Law

Officials at Eastern Michigan University apparently suspected all along that Laura Dickinson was murdered. And there was good reason to do so.

The body of the 22-year-old student was found, naked from the waist down, in her locked dorm room, with a pillow over her head, reports the Los Angeles Times. But university officials assured community members—and Dickson’s family—that there was nothing to worry about, because she had died of natural causes. Not until months later, when a fellow student was arrested and charged with her December 2006 murder, did the truth about the cause of her death come out.

Now family, friends and members of the larger community are furious about the apparent concealment of the crime–and, in lengthy report commissioned by the university that was released earlier this month, Butzel Long, a Detroit law firm, says the school apparently violated federal law by taking this approach. Under the Jeanne Clery Act, colleges and universities must disclose campus crimes and warn students of safety threats. It was enacted in 1990, in response to the 1986 death of a woman raped and murdered in her dorm room at Pennsylvania’s Lehigh University.

The university’s board of regents is to discuss the case today, as well as “possible administration staff changes,” the Los Angeles Times reports. “Clearly, the report shows that the university has a lack of protective systems and policies in place,” says James Stapleton, a member of the regents subcommittee that commissioned the Butzel Long report. “It’s tough, but it’s a completely dysfunctional culture at EMU. And we are going to change that culture.”

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