The latest annual report on student sexual misconduct at the University of Michigan shows a decrease in reports of sexual assault as well as the number of investigations conducted by the university in fiscal year 2019.
Of the 272 reports of student prohibited conduct received between July 1, 2018, and June 30, 2019, 126 were concerns about sexual assault — down from 149 the previous year — followed by 84 about sexual harassment, 36 about stalking, 29 about intimate partner violence, seven about gender-based harassment, six about retaliation, six violations of interim measures, and 17 that were categorized as “other.”
The report, issued by the university’s Office for Institutional Equity, details actions taken by the university to address issues reported under the interim student sexual misconduct policy, and provides case-by-case outcomes of all investigations carried out by OIE under the direction of the university’s Title IX coordinator.
Also this week, the university released its annual report regarding employee sexual misconduct, which showed a decrease in reports from the previous year.
“There may be several factors that may have contributed to the stability of the report numbers from last year to this year, including changes to the policy and procedures for investigating and adjudicating matters, as well as the dramatic increase in reports in previous years,” said Elizabeth Seney, Title IX coordinator and senior associate director of OIE.
There were 16 investigations opened in FY ’19, a decrease from 20 the previous year. Additionally, there were 12 cases in which the parties involved elected, and the Title IX coordinator approved, to use adaptable resolution to resolve the complaint. Adaptable resolution is a voluntary, remedies-based resolution method that balances support and accountability without formal disciplinary action against a respondent.
In January, U-M revised its student sexual misconduct policy to comply with the ruling of the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that live, direct cross-examination must be conducted — by either students or their advisers — in student sexual misconduct proceedings where credibility is at issue and suspension or expulsion may result.
At the same time, the university expanded adaptable resolution in the interim policy to be used in any case as long as both the claimant and respondent are in agreement, participate voluntarily and the university’s Title IX coordinator approves. The process is conducted by a trained coordinator within the Office of Student Conflict Resolution.
“The response, in terms of students electing to pursue an adaptable resolution process, and reaching a mutually agreed upon resolution, has been really positive,” Seney said.
“It’s important that students have options in order for them to determine what process best meets their needs. In our response to any and all reports, we provide students with extensive information about the various options and resources available to them, in order to allow them to make informed choices.”
Under the interim policy, prohibited conduct includes a wide variety of behavior from unwanted sexual comments to sexual assault. The policy also prohibits intimate partner violence, stalking, sexual and gender-based harassment, as well as retaliation and violation of interim measures related to an underlying complaint of these behaviors.
Of the 272 reports, there were 127 cases in which the claimant did not wish for an investigation to occur or OIE was unable to identify the claimant. Such cases are considered by a review panel consisting of university faculty and staff who have specific expertise to offer advice to the Title IX coordinator on the appropriate response by the university.
Of those 127 reports considered by the review panel, 122 were closed for lack of information and five resulted in other action being taken to address underlying concerns.
There were 126 of the 272 reports that did not result in investigative resolution, adaptable resolution or consideration by the review panel. Most of these were determined not to fall within the scope of the university’s policy, most commonly because the respondent was not affiliated with the university.
Through the 16 investigations opened, nine investigations were completed at the time data was collected for the annual report, of which five involved a finding that the policy was violated. OIE determined that a total of seven policy violations occurred.
Three investigations were pending at the time data was collected for the annual report, and in four instances, claimants requested to close the investigation before it was completed.
When a respondent is found to have violated the policy, the university takes action designed to eliminate the prohibited conduct, prevent its recurrence and remedy its effects. Sanctions issued in the past year include educational measures, housing restriction, employment restriction, no-contact sanction, disciplinary probation suspension, transcript notation or expulsion.
The university encourages all members of the campus community to report concerns of prohibited conduct. OIE follows up on each report received to determine appropriate next steps.
The university is in the process of gathering feedback on its interim student sexual misconduct policy as well as a draft umbrella policy to be applied to the entire U-M community on the Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint campuses. Feedback from the community is requested by Nov. 22.