The latest annual report on student sexual misconduct at the University of Michigan shows an increase in reports of sexual assault as well as the number of investigations conducted by the university in fiscal year 2020.
Of the 292 reports of student prohibited conduct received between July 1, 2019, and June 30, 2020, 157 were concerns about sexual assault — up from 126 the previous year. There were 272 total reports of misconduct in FY ’19.
Those are followed by 77 reports about sexual harassment, 40 about stalking, 29 about intimate partner violence, seven regarding gender-based harassment, one report of retaliation, two violations of interim measures, and nine that were categorized as “unknown or other.”
Since a single report of prohibited conduct may raise concerns about multiple potential violations of the policy, the 292 reports involved 322 potential policy violations.
Also, this week the university released its annual report regarding employee and third-party sexual misconduct, which showed the number of reports in 2020 was consistent with the previous year.
“There may be several factors that may have contributed to the increase in the report numbers from last year to this year. It is incredibly important that prohibited conduct is reported to the university so it can be addressed,” said Elizabeth Seney, Title IX coordinator and senior associate director of the Office for Institutional Equity.
Fifteen investigations were opened in FY ’20, compared with 16 the previous year. Most of those investigations stemmed from allegations of sexual assault.
Additionally, there were 10 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.
Of the 292 reports, there were 157 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. Most of these cases involved reports of sexual assault or stalking.
Consistent with the complainant’s wishes in those instances where the complainant’s identity was known, none of the 157 cases considered by the review panel proceeded to an investigation.
OIE responded in other ways to 110 matters, most involving respondents who are not affiliated with the university such that disciplinary action is not feasible, but supportive measures and resources still are available to the university complainant. Reports in 11 additional situations resulted in some other response, most commonly because the reports were determined not to fall within the scope of the policy.
Under the policy in effect during FY ’20, 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.
In August, U-M revised its Interim Policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Misconduct to remain consistent with federal guidance and have one overarching policy that applies to the entire university community on all three campuses. Separate procedures for students and employees also were updated at that time.
OIE is charged with conducting a thorough and impartial investigation, after which an external, trained hearing officer conducts a hearing and subsequently issues a finding. In making a finding, the hearing officer uses the “preponderance of the evidence” standard established in the policy.
Under this standard, individuals are presumed not to have engaged in the alleged conduct unless a preponderance of the evidence supports a finding that the conduct occurred. This preponderance standard requires that the evidence supporting each finding be more convincing than the evidence obtained in opposition to it.
Through the 15 investigations opened during FY ’20, six involved a finding that the respondent violated the policy, and six others did not involve a finding that the respondent violated the policy. Two investigations were closed at the request of the claimant and one remained open.
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, activity restriction, enrollment restriction, employment restriction, no-contact sanction, disciplinary probation, transcript notation and 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 continues to gather feedback through March 15 on its Interim Policy on Sexual and Gender-based Misconduct that applies to the entire U-M community on the Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint campuses.