Amidst turmoil, EMU president fired

Daily News Editor
Published July 22, 2007

After six months of backlash for his administration's handling of the murder of Eastern Michigan University student Laura Dickinson in her dorm room, EMU President John Fallon was dismissed by the EMU Board of Regents on July 15.

After Dickinson's body was found on the floor of her dorm room in December, an administration-issued release said there was no suspicion of foul play, though Dickinson was found naked from the waist down with a pillowcase over her head and her keys missing.

The regents voted to fire Fallon in a hastily convened telephone conference that day, and announced its decision to Fallon that night, EMU Regent Jim Stapleton said.

The regents met again on July 16 and announced that President of Student Affairs Jim Vick and Public Safety Director Cindy Hall had agreed to also leave their positions at EMU. They also issued a reprimand to EMU General Counsel Ken McKanders.

According to two reports, one by the private law firm Butzel Long and the other by the U.S. Department of Education, the administration's handling of the case was in violation of the Clery Act, which requires federally funded institutions to disclose any information on a crime that may pose a public threat.

EMU did not report its suspicions of rape and murder until the arrest of suspect Orange Taylor III in February.

According to the Department of Education report, released on July 3, "EMU failed to issue a timely warning to the campus community that would alert students and employees of a suspicious student death that occurred in a campus residence hall that became the subject of a homicide investigation."

The report also stated that Hall was present during the initial investigation when it was decided that Dickinson was most likely murdered.

The Butzel Long report said Vick and Hall both admitted it was evident at the initial finding of Dickinson's body that there was a possibility of homicide.

In a press conference on July 16, the regents discussed their reasons for terminating the contracts of the three administrators and their plans to move forward in the future.

"I believe John Fallon could have been much more proactive in the way he handled this affair," Stapleton said.

Board Chairman Tom Sidlik said Fallon has 60 days before he must leave his university-owned house, and Provost Don Lopponow will serve as an interim leader of a four member council until a new president is named.

He said the regents anticipated that Fallon would make confrontational comments in the meeting on July 16, and that was the reason for the telephone meeting on July 15.

Stapleton said the regents voted to increase security measures by hiring more security guards on campus and considering the reports' suggestions to improve their security and information policies.

"This is not something we can tackle overnight and fix overnight," he said.

EMU history lecturer Russell Jones said he thinks the regents made the right decision.

"The president's got to take responsibility," he said.

Jones said Fallon should have been more open with students and faculty.

"That was his fundamental mistake," he said.

EMU senior Jaclyn Armstrong lived three floors above Dickinson and was outraged at the administration's response to the murder.

"They lied to us," she said. "I think they should have been fired for this - they put our lives in danger."

Armstrong said Fallon seemed ill-prepared at the open forums the EMU administration held to address Dickinson's murder, referring to other administrators to answer questions.

"From what I've seen he didn't handle things well," she said.