Education Law

EMU Firings: Rare Clery Act Fallout

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Three senior administrators including Eastern Michigan University’s president have been fired and an in-house lawyer has been reprimanded, in response to reports finding that the Ypsilanti institution violated federal law by falsely portraying Laura Dickinson’s death in her dorm room last year as a non-criminal act.

In fact, the 22-year-old student had been raped and murdered, but even her parents weren’t told the truth until months later, when a fellow student was arrested and charged with the crime, as an earlier post discusses. Now EMU president John Fallon, Vice President of Student Affairs James Vick, and Public Safety Director Cindy Hall have all been fired over the incident, according to the Los Angeles Times. And a letter is being put in the personnel file of an in-house university lawyer, Kenneth McKanders, according to the Associated Press, which doesn’t detail his role in the matter.

Such fallout from a violation of federal Clery Act requirements that information about on-campus crime be disclosed is clearly unusual. Compliance with the statute is spotty, according to a 2002 Stetson Law Review article (PDF). And, since 1990, only three fines have been levied by the U.S. Department of Education for violations of the Clery Act, according to a U.S. News & World Report article.

Earlier this year, a lengthy report (and a brief summary) by a Detroit law firm, Butzel Long, found in that the university’s false portrayal of Dickinson’s murder as an apparent natural death violated the Clery Act (PDFs). A subsequent government report (PDF) also reached the same conclusion.

The Clery Act was named after another college student, 19-year-old Jeanne Clery, who was raped and murdered in her dorm room at Pennsylvania’s Lehigh University during her freshman year in 1986. Her parents later found out that 30 crimes had occurred on the campus during the prior three years that students were never told about, reports the Detroit Free Press.

Such crimes are now reported on a U.S. Department of Education Web site, and can also be found on nonprofit Security on Campus Inc.’s Web site.

(Hat tips to and Student Prospector.)

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