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University chief fired after student rape, slaying

Three Eastern Michigan University administrators, including the president, have been forced out, months after top school officials were accused of covering up the rape and slaying of a student by publicly ruling out foul play.
Robert Dickinson;Deb Dickinson; Kevin Dickinson
Robert and Deb Dickinson sit with their son Kevin during a court hearing in Ypsilanti, Mich., on March 30 for Orange Taylor III. Taylor, 20, is charged with murder and two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in the death of Laura Dickinson, 22.Rex Larsen / Grand Rapids Press via AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Three Eastern Michigan University administrators, including the president, have been forced out, months after top school officials were accused of covering up the rape and slaying of a student by publicly ruling out foul play.

President John Fallon was fired, and Vice President of Student Affairs Jim Vick and Public Safety Director Cindy Hall lost their jobs at the 23,500-student university, the chairman of the school’s governing board said Monday.

Board of Regents Chairman Thomas Sidlik also said the board would put a letter of discipline in the file of university attorney Kenneth McKanders.

The body of the slain student, Laura Dickinson, 22, was discovered Dec. 15 in her dorm room. At the time, university officials told her parents and the media that she died of asphyxiation but that there was no sign of foul play, despite evidence to the contrary.

It was not until another Eastern student, Orange Taylor III, was arrested in late February and charged with murder that her family and students learned she had been raped and killed. Taylor has pleaded not guilty to murder and criminal sexual conduct charges in Dickinson’s death, and is scheduled for trial Oct. 15.

An independent law firm investigation and U.S. Department of Education report both found that the 23,500-student public university violated the federal Clery Act, which requires colleges and universities to disclose campus security information.

Fallon: 'I have a story to tell'Fallon’s secretary did not know how Fallon could be reached for further comment. Fallon told the Ann Arbor News that a termination letter indicated his office had been secured and arrangements would be made for him to retrieve his personal items. He told the newspaper he was upset with how the board handled his firing.

In an image provided by Bob Dickinson, Laura Dickinson is shown in an undated photo. Two months after Laura was found dead in her dorm room just before Christmas break in 2006, Eastern Michigan University officials still hadn't told her parents and the public how she died. But they also didn't publicly say the 22-year-old junior may have been the victim of a homicide. It wasn't until a suspect was arrested in late February, 2007 that her family and fellow students learned the real story: Laura Dickinson had been raped and murdered. (AP Photo/Dickinson Family) ** NO SALES **Dickinson Family

“As a citizen, I am disappointed in this hastily called meeting, without any opportunity to be present or to respond,” Fallon told the paper. “I have a story to tell and intend to tell it.”

Messages left by the AP at a telephone listing for the official president’s residence at Eastern Michigan and by e-mail were not immediately returned. Board members said Fallon has 60 days to leave the property.

The board appointed Provost Donald Loppnow as executive vice president. In that dual role, Loppnow will serve as the school’s chief executive until an interim president is selected.

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.

Robert Dickinson, the young woman's father, said anybody implicated in the federal report "should probably expect the same" fate as Fallon.

"I fire my baristas if they do wrong," said Dickinson, who owns a coffee house. "The board of this school should do whatever they need to do. They need to follow the rules that they have set forth."

Faculty take a stand
Howard Bunsis, president of the faculty union, said Monday that everyone involved in covering up information about Dickinson's slaying should no longer be working for the university.

"It's now time for the university to move forward," Bunsis said. "When I say move forward, I mean put a total focus on what happens in the classroom between students and faculty. We've had a difficult time."