Leadership team set for cultural change working group


President Mark Schlissel appointed the leadership team for a universitywide effort to establish new community expectations around sexual harassment intervention and prevention policies.


The president announced May 20 that a collaborative, systemic effort to bring about broad cultural change regarding community workplace norms and behaviors at the university would continue with the formation of a Working Group on Culture Change led by Patricia Hurn, dean of the School of Nursing, and Sonya Jacobs, chief organizational learning officer for the university and senior director for faculty and leadership development at Michigan Medicine.

Schlissel said Hurn and Jacobs are developing a charge for the effort and a work plan for the group “whose purpose is to create an environment of mutual respect and accountability that is free of retaliation, where everyone can feel safe to report misconduct and feel supported throughout the process.”

Jacobs, who was announced as one of the leaders in March, has worked for the past five years to lead a similar effort at Michigan Medicine, helping the health system define its values and mission. Her work also includes the development of education, training, interventions and programs to further the university’s initiatives around creating an inclusive and equitable environment.

As nursing school dean, Hurn leads an academic unit that is uniquely positioned in a frontline health profession that has specialized knowledge with respect to trauma-informed care for people affected by sexual and gender-based misconduct and violence.

The working group will oversee the development of a universitywide statement of values and ethics through a process that will include robust engagement with faculty, staff, students and other stakeholders across campus. The remainder of the group’s members will consist of subject matter experts and community members at large and will be formed over the summer.

This effort is part of the university’s work with the consulting firm Guidepost Solutions to create a set of unifying, shared values and set a lasting high standard for campus behaviors, systems and practices.

The work aligns with recommendations made in a July 30, 2020, WilmerHale report on the misconduct of former provost Martin Philbert.

In his remarks at the March 25 Board of Regents meeting, Schlissel said the culture change effort would be one the university community must work on together.

“This important work is not just about meaningful policy and process reform to prevent and address sexual misconduct, but also about creating a new environment, and a renewed culture, where people can fully thrive in their studies and careers and know they can report misconduct without fear of retaliation,” Schlissel said. “A community with a heightened level of trust of one another and of campus leaders.”

The university also has several other efforts underway related to combatting sexual misconduct. Among those are:

  • Establishing an advisory committee of students, faculty and staff to provide perspectives and input on policies, procedures, prevention efforts and other matters related to sexual and gender-based misconduct. The committee will work closely with Title IX Coordinator Elizabeth Seney, who also serves as senior associate director of the Office for Institutional Equity, and Brigid Hart-Molloy, deputy Title IX coordinator and assistant director of OIE.
  • Finalizing this summer the interim umbrella policy on sexual and gender-based misconduct. The interim policy includes common definitions for prohibited conduct, separate procedures for addressing allegations against students and those against employees and third parties, and further clarifies available confidential resources and ways to report misconduct.
  • Re-evaluating how candidates for internal promotions and major outside hires are scrutinized. The WilmerHale report recommended how U-M could improve vetting procedures for significant hiring decisions, such as ensuring that information about policy violations and other misconduct by candidates is available to decisionmakers and systematically considered with respect to internal candidates.
  • Working with faculty and staff to develop a policy that governs intimate relationships between supervisors and supervisees and ensures that all relationships are characterized by mutual enthusiasm and free from coercion, conflicts of interest and favoritism.
  • Providing OIE with additional resources to investigate complaints of harassment and discrimination and bolster its work in prevention, education and support.
  • Improving channels for reporting misconduct, along with revamped protections against retaliation.

Additional updates on the university’s cultural change efforts are expected this summer. 


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