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University illegally hid killing, report says

Initial silence about a student's death broke the law, review finds.

July 04, 2007|From the Associated Press

DETROIT — Officials at Eastern Michigan University violated federal law when they publicly ruled out foul play in the death of a student who actually had been raped and killed in her dormitory room, a U.S. Department of Education review concluded.

The 18-page federal report said the school's actions violated the Clery Act, which requires colleges and universities to disclose campus security information, the school said in making the report public Tuesday.

The report had been provided a day earlier to the Board of Regents and Eastern Michigan President John A. Fallon III.

"By making this report immediately available, we are continuing our commitment to total transparency," Regent James Stapleton said in a news release. He had headed a panel that oversaw an earlier independent investigation in the case that came to a similar conclusion.

Laura Dickinson, 22, a junior, was found dead in her room in December, just before winter break.

University officials told her parents and the media that she died of asphyxiation but that there was no sign of foul play. It wasn't until a suspect, also an Eastern student, was arrested in late February that her family and fellow students learned she had been raped and killed.

Her father, Bob Dickinson, was unavailable Tuesday for comment, said an employee at the family's coffee shop in Hastings, about 40 miles west of Lansing.

The Education Department said its review team visited the Ypsilanti campus April 3-5. Further review will determine whether the school will face sanctions such as fines or suspension of eligibility for student aid, the report said.

Last week, the faculty council at the 23,500-student public university approved a no-confidence resolution against Fallon and called for his firing.

Officials said they planned to review the report before commenting on its findings publicly. Stapleton has said that after the report came back, the regents would discuss whether to remove Fallon.

Many in the university's administration were accused of covering up the truth and endangering students to protect the school's image, which has been marred in recent years by tensions with faculty, students and the community.

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