The University of Michigan Board of Regents and President Mark Schlissel are hiring an expert consulting firm to help the university maintain forward momentum in its commitment to promote a safer, more equitable and inclusive campus environment and culture, where sexual and gender-based misconduct and retaliation are not tolerated and trust is rebuilt.
Guidepost Solutions, a nationally recognized firm that specializes in regulatory compliance, monitoring, investigations and security, will collaborate with the university community in the coming year to implement recommendations made July 31 in a report on the investigation into sexual misconduct by former provost Martin Philbert.
The law firm of WilmerHale conducted that investigation and made a series of recommendations that address the areas of policy, culture and process.
Some recommendations already have been implemented, others are being developed and some will now become the focus of the university’s collaboration with Guidepost Solutions, a New York-based consulting firm with extensive experience in providing counsel to clients working to prevent workplace sexual misconduct and in the higher education sector.
Schlissel announced the hiring of Guidepost Solutions at the start of the Dec. 3 regents meeting.
“This is an important next step that will help to keep the university on track with implementing the critically important recommendations contained in the WilmerHale report,” Schlissel said. “Having the outside perspective and experience of the Guidepost team will help us move these matters through our processes to completion.”
Guidepost will assist the university with follow through and compliance with the recommendations, while leveraging the considerable work that already has been undertaken in this area, Schlissel said.
The firm will help the university integrate the WilmerHale recommendations and earlier policy reviews with ongoing campus work streams, as well as leverage the expertise of university offices that address misconduct and faculty experts in this area. Where appropriate, Guidepost will offer additional recommendations for how the university can create an environment where sexual misconduct and workplace retaliation are not tolerated.
The Board of Regents and the administration considered several firms before selecting Guidepost because of the firm’s deep higher-education experience and commitment to working in close collaboration with the campus community.
“This moment represents an important step as part of our long-term commitment to a process of improvement,” Board Chair Denise Ilitch said. “The addition of Guidepost’s expertise helps us work toward realizing the vision for a campus where sexual misconduct will not be tolerated.”
Guidepost has served as the independent safety monitor for General Motors Corp.; has been appointed as federal monitor of the New York City Housing Authority, the nation’s largest public housing authority; and has addressed sexual misconduct or discrimination matters at a number of public and private universities.
Asha Muldro, a senior managing director for Guidepost, will lead the U-M effort. Muldro, a former federal prosecutor, directs an array of compliance, monitoring and investigative matters for Guidepost clients.
“The key to our success here at the University of Michigan will be a solid and productive working relationship with the university community,” Muldro said.
“Our focus will be to understand institutional needs, challenges and cultures to define solutions that are impactful and sustainable over the long term. This is a forward-looking constructive effort to work with the university in a changing environment.”
She said her firm recognizes that, unlike some other engagements, this project must bring together the campus community, its leadership and Guidepost with each having the same goals: establishing a program that is credible and has integrity.
“We recognize that the mission here is to have a program with integrity that is owned by the university with accountability as the highest value and where sexual and gender-based misconduct and retaliation are not tolerated. To achieve this goal, it is essential that we work closely with the university community. The planning and helping to implement the recommendations must be the result of collaboration to be successful,” Muldro said.
Guidepost will engage with stakeholders that include regents, the president, administrators and experts who work in this area, faculty experts, faculty governance, university faculty and staff generally, students and sexual misconduct survivors. The university will give access to all policies, training materials and related materials so Guidepost can conduct its work.
The agreement between the university and Guidepost anticipates that this work will start immediately. The initial term of the agreement ends Dec. 31, 2021, or until satisfactory completion of the work. Public reports will be provided to the board and the president at a regular cadence, including at the regularly scheduled board meeting on June 17, 2021.