University pledges to create stricter alert system after report details cover-up of student’s death

DETROIT (MCT) – Eastern Michigan University leaders say they’re implementing a new alert system and will provide students with regular updates on crimes on campus in the wake of a federal report that blasted the university for the cover-up of a student’s killing.

The steps are among several outlined in the school’s official response to the report by the U.S. Department of Education, which found Eastern Michigan failed to alert the public of the rape and killing of Laura Dickinson in December, and the university violated federal law by underreporting and misreporting crimes on campus since 2003.

Since the report came out, three Eastern Michigan officials have lost their jobs: President John A. Fallon III, Vice President for Student Affairs James Vick and Director of Public Safety Cindy Hall. General counsel Kenneth McKanders was reprimanded.

University officials were not available for comment, but McKanders, in the response dated July 27, said the university accepts the federal findings. He outlined a number of steps to ensure Eastern Michigan does a more effective job of responding to and reporting campus crime:

n Creating a warning system to alert the campus of threats.

n Training 50 staff members on the federal law that requires universities to report campus crimes in a timely manner.

n Completing an independent audit of the university’s crime statistics reported in the last three years.

n Completing a safety and security audit of the main campus.

n Providing bi-weekly campus incident report summaries to students, faculty and staff.

n Holding forums each semester for students, faculty and staff to discuss campus crime.

“Let me express EMU’s sincere hope that our determined effort to achieve and maintain compliance, along with our cooperation with the U.S. Department of Education, will be favorably received and considered by you in the next stages of this process,” McKanders wrote.

The Department of Education has until mid-September to issue a final report on Eastern Michigan. The university faces sanctions, which could include hefty fines and loss of federal student aid.

Howard Bunsis, president of the Eastern Michigan chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said he’s “happy the university is taking responsibility for mistakes that were made” and hopes the focus on the school shifts back to academics.

“It’s a horrible tragedy what happened,” he said. “And the university hopefully is taking the appropriate action.”