Former President of Eastern Michigan University, John Fallon, was hired as associate vice president of economic development and community engagement at Ball State University at a salary of $146,000. His first day on campus was March 1.
EMU history professor Mark Higbee said Fallon does not belong in higher education.
“Anybody in higher education who hires him has made an incredible error in judgment,” Higbee said.
Fallon was fired from EMU shortly after the Laura Dickinson scandal, wherein EMU administration violated the Clery Act by misrepresenting the nature of a student’s death, saying to students, faculty, and the victim’s family that no foul play was suspected, despite that officials suspected she was raped and murdered.
Dickinson’s body was found semi-nude on Dec. 15, 2006, in room 518 of Hill Hall.
The public was not informed of the true cause of Dickinson’s death until EMU student Orange Taylor III was arrested on Feb. 23, 2007, charged with her rape and murder.
EMU was fined $357,500 for violating the Clery Act, which requires that universities disclose crime information to its students. This was the highest fine ever paid for a Clery Act violation. Futhermore, EMU paid Dickinson’s family $2.5 million in a settlement.
Higbee said that Fallon’s failure at EMU is inexcusable and should not be overlooked.
“Fallon allowed Laura Dickinson’s funeral to take place without her parents knowing that it was probably the result of murder,” Higbee said. “Yet, dozens of police officers were investigating it on campus.”
Not all who were at EMU during the Dickinson scandal blamed Fallon.
Freman Hendrix, who was EMU’s chief governmental relations officer and worked closely with Fallon, said he thinks Fallon is a “good man and a very well intentioned person.” Hendrix emphasized that Fallon had “virtually an unblemished record” prior to the scandal.
“The shoe had to fall somewhere,” Hendrix said. “Sadly when you’re at the top of the pyramid when something like this happens, it’s not surprising that things hit Dr. Fallon the way that they did.”
“I absolutely am happy to hear that he has an opportunity in higher education,” Hendrix said. “I think Ball State is going to do very well with his leadership.”
BSU Executive Director of Public Relations, Joan Todd, declined comment. However, she recently spoke with theStarPress.com saying that Fallon’s recent employment as CEO of NPower Indiana made him an especially qualified candidate.
BSU Provost Terry King told BSUDailyNews.com Fallon was the most qualified of the half a dozen people who applied for the job.
“He was really the only one that had the credentials to pull it off,” King said to BSUDailyNews.com.
Hendrix said he thought Fallon was “uniquely skilled” in the area of economic development.
“He’s unusually skilled in governmental politics where funding is very much decided,” Hendrix said.
Fallon’s employment by BSU has become a topic of debate on the EMU focused blog EMUTalk.org. Some commenters have defended Fallon, citing Fallon’s claim that he was unaware police were investigating Dickinson’s death as a murder.
Higbee said whether Fallon knew is irrelevant.
“If Fallon didn’t know that it was a murder investigation, then he was incompetent,” Higbee said. “If he knew that, then it’s even worse because
then he was part of the cover-up.”
“Either way, he has no place in higher education. Higher education is supposed to be about telling the truth.”
Hendrix stressed that although Fallon made mistakes, “hindsight is 20/20.”
“Everyone would do things differently if they could do things over again,” Hendrix said. “It doesn’t change in my mind the positive things he did up to that point.”
Carmen Lamb, a senior studying journalism at EMU, said administrators at BSU “have to be crazy.”
Lamb wished “good luck to Ball State” and said she was glad that EMU fired him.
“I’m happy he’s not here,” she said. “That was one of the smartest choices they made.”
EMU administration declined to comment.
The BSUDailyNews.com Editorial Board published an editorial asking, “Why would the university, after Fallon failed to disclose some information about a rape and murder, hire him into a leadership position?”
The Editorial Board said it was “leery of bringing in an administrator with a questionable background.”
Fallon said in a prepared statement to starpress.com, “I look forward to helping advance our institution as a leading university on the national stage.”