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Posted on Thu, Dec 9, 2010 : 5:55 a.m.

Four years after student's murder, EMU signs agreement on handling of sexual assault, harassment claims

By David Jesse

Four years after Eastern Michigan University covered up the sexual assault and murder of a student in a campus dorm, the university has signed an agreement with federal Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights that lays out a series of regulations on how EMU will deal with allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment.

“The bottom line is that as a result of this review, the university will have a more effective procedure for dealing with (sexual assault and sexual harassment),” said S. Daniel Carter, the director of public policy at Security On Campus, a group that tracks safety issues. Carter noted that the Office of Civil Rights found that the university had inadequate channels for reporting allegations and for dealing with them after a complaint was filed.

Among other things, the agreement calls for EMU to set up new policies and procedures for handling complaints and allegations; designate a university employee as a Title IX coordinator to oversee the process of handling complaints; design new publications and training on what constitutes sexual assault and conduct an annual climate check with students. It also calls for ongoing reports to the Office of Civil Rights and says the office will visit the campus to make on-site checks to make sure the policies are being followed.

The agreement is the result of two years of discussions between the university and the federal government, EMU spokesman Walter Kraft said.

“We’re very much interested in working in a proactive and cooperative manner,” he said. “Many of these (items) are already in place. What this agreement provides is further structure for us … a more robust focus to ensure that we are educating our students on these issues. Our goal is a campus free of sexual assault and sexual harassment.”

The OCR said that in entering into the agreement, the university makes no admission of wrongdoing.

EMU President Susan Martin signed the agreement on Nov.15.

EMU has been under scrutiny since Laura Dickinson was killed in her Hill Hall dorm room in December 2006.

She was discovered nude from the waist down, with evidence of a sexual assault.

However, university officials did not warn EMU students that Dickinson was murdered until they arrested Orange Taylor III for the crime two months later. Taylor was eventually convicted of the crime.


Eastern Michigan University President John Fallon, left, discusses the murder of EMU student Laura Dickinson, as regent Roy Wilbanks, right, listens in this March 2007 file photo.

The failure to inform students was a violation of the federal Cleary Act. The federal government issued a $350,000 fine against the university. Three top administrators, including university President John Fallon and Public Safety Director Cindy Hall, lost their jobs in the ensuing fallout.

The OCR started its investigation of EMU following that the Dickinson murder.

“OCR wishes to thank the university for its cooperation in reaching an agreement that will have a long-lasting, positive impact for this university community, serving to enhance and build upon many actions the university already was taking,” a letter to the university from Catherine Criswell, the director of the Cleveland office, said.

In 2007, EMU reported four cases of on-campus forcible criminal sexual conduct. The university reported four cases in 2008 and three cases in 2009. EMU reported no cases of non-forcible criminal sexual conduct in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

The OCR conducted an in-depth review of the universities policies, the agency said in a letter to EMU. OCR staff looked at all complaints filed, including incidents of professor-on-student sexual harassment; student-on-student sexual harassment and student-on-student sexual assault. Staff members also interviewed a number of university officials.

In its letter to EMU, the OCR pointed out several areas in which it said the university should improve, but stopped short of declaring those "findings" of violations. Among items OCR cited:

  • “The university’s notice of non-discrimination does not fully meet the requirements.”
  • “The university does not have a prompt and equitable grievance procedure for addressing student and employee complaints alleging any action prohibited by Title IX.”
  • The policy does not tell people with whom they should file a complaint.
  • The policy "does not provide appropriate procedures for the processing of any complaint, (e.g. timeframes for completion of the major stages of an investigation).”
  • The policy "appears to only be applied to complaints of sexual harassment against faculty or staff.”

The letter from OCR to EMU also said Title IX training for staff was insufficient and no one was making sure the Title IX coordinators were doing their jobs. OCR also raised concerns about the handling of four complaints of sexual harassment.

Included in those cases was a complaint that a professor was “assigning sexually-related scenarios to act out and was making inappropriate comments during class." The letter noted  the director of the Office of Diversity and Affirmative Action said she referred the matter to the academic department head, who agreed to speak with the student. But the student dropped the class, and the department head said the student's contact information was invalid. She said did not follow up with the professor or take any other action.

David Jesse covers higher education for He can be reached at or at 734-623-2534.



Sun, Dec 12, 2010 : 9:46 a.m.

BLAH BLAH BLAH...when are you going to follow the state and Federal Constitution and "allow" students to defend themselves on campus property? Education is great, but all else literally does nothing to prevent the crimes or stop one in progress and is lip service and spin. 1*


Thu, Dec 9, 2010 : 10:36 p.m.

"... The agreement is the result of two years of discussions between the university and the federal government...." After four years in total since the assault and murder, it's about time. But why did such a process require two years of discussions? There's no reason to feel the least bit sorry for the thankfully former high-level EMU officials who lost their jobs over this. While in apparent 'damage control' mode, they boldly and coldly attempted to b.s. their way through a situation which began when someone lost her life due to violent attack.


Thu, Dec 9, 2010 : 3:15 p.m.

In response to "Cooking the books" Is there any way to cook Ypsilanti? Let's face it the area is riddled with crime and the community needs to step up and take back the streets from the thugs. Cooperation with and support of law enforcement it of the utmost importance.

Mumbambu, Esq.

Thu, Dec 9, 2010 : 11:18 a.m.

It's important to look into how much better things are NOW at EMU under the new administration. The school is finally progressing, investing and expanding its enrollment. Dr. Martin is fantastic and her higher of Leigh Greden is spot-on.


Thu, Dec 9, 2010 : 11:08 a.m.

EMU's actions in this case have bordered on criminal... I hope they have learned from their mistakes.


Thu, Dec 9, 2010 : 10:57 a.m.

Trespass, Your comment would only make sense if there wasn't countless cases of municipal police departments "cooking the books" in order to make their cities appear safer. All police departments in the United States (including local, county, state, university etc...) are required to report crime statistics to the FBI's Unified Crime Report (UCR). Many publications take these statistics and release reports on the safest communities in America. Knowing that people want to raise their families in these "safe" communities there have been scandals in cities like Philadelphia, Boca Raton, Atlanta, Buffalo and New York City (just to name a few), all were accused of changing crime stats, mislabeling crimes etc... City and County Departments also have to follow chain of command which extends outside of just the police department, city councils, mayors and county boards can be just as corrupt as a University administration.


Thu, Dec 9, 2010 : 10:36 a.m.

That's an excellent point, trespass. I had not thought of that before. In addition to specific misconduct on the part of VP Vick and the police chief, the system itself was (is?) flawed.


Thu, Dec 9, 2010 : 10:31 a.m.

As long as the chain of command for the police officers goes through the administration and University President, you will have problems with campus police covering up crime and unequal justice based upon the hierarchy of the university. The campus police should be a branch of the municipal police and the legislature made a mistake when it gave Universities the power to have their own police departments.


Thu, Dec 9, 2010 : 9:56 a.m.

@Mlm17, you're spot on. My first few semesters at EMU included this murder and the teacher strike. I had nothing but bad experiences with the administration while there. However, the university is still a great place as a whole. I received a great education from terrific faculty members. Aside from some of the ridiculousness at the top, the school is a great place.


Thu, Dec 9, 2010 : 9:13 a.m.

I agree with mama247 and ezbngreen in their criticism of EMU. Former VP Vick, who had the audacity to think he would be the successful candidate for a job working WITH STUDENTS in Ypsilanti, finally came to the wise conclusion that he should leave town and work out of state. As the Mom of an EMU student at the time of the murder, I trusted EMU to put out honest and timely information. After reading the Butzel Long report, I learned there was nothing honest or timely about VP Vick's information. Best wishes to EMU, which in all other ways has provided an excellent education to our kids.


Thu, Dec 9, 2010 : 8:42 a.m.

Better late than never; I suppose. I still think that the lack of integrity on the part of this institution leads me to have a credibility issue. They hid information and lied... RIP Laura


Thu, Dec 9, 2010 : 8:30 a.m.

My heart goes out to the family of Laura Dickinson. They were treated worse than harshly by the honchos of Eastern Michigan University following their daughter's murder, which was first intimated to be natural or self-inflicted. I know they'd want much better for students than their daughter received; she was unjustly brutalized in life and subsequently in death. At an institution of "higher learning". For shame.