The University of Michigan will soon begin a formal effort to improve the culture of the institution as it relates to sexual and gender-based misconduct through a process that engages the community in the co-creation of change.

That was one of several steps outlined by President Mark Schlissel as he provided an update on the university’s work with Guidepost Solutions, the consulting firm that has been engaged by Schlissel and the Board of Regents to help implement the recommendations of the WilmerHale report on misconduct by former provost Martin Philbert.

Schlissel said during his opening remarks for the March 25 regents meeting that he has asked Sonya Jacobs, chief organizational learning officer for the university and senior director for faculty and leadership development at Michigan Medicine, to lead the cultural change effort along with a faculty leader who will be announced soon. Jacobs led a similar effort at Michigan Medicine.

“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 the 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.”

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The president also said an advisory committee would be formed to support this work, “but our journey to a more positive culture will need to involve everyone in our community. We must embark on this together, create it together, and produce a culture we can all be proud of at the University of Michigan.”

Additionally, Schlissel outlined a number of other efforts that are underway. He said:

  • He anticipates providing the Office for Institutional Equity with additional resources for investigations, but also “their important work in prevention, education and support. The leadership and staff of OIE are very dedicated to our community, and we want to help enhance their effectiveness.”
  • He expects the interim umbrella policy on sexual and gender-based misconduct will be finalized this summer.
  • He said OIE is seeking community members to serve on 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 university will improve channels for reporting misconduct, along with revamped protections against retaliation and greater clarity about what to expect when a complaint is filed.
  • Work continues with faculty and staff to develop a policy that “recognizes healthy relationships, while ensuring that all relationships are free from coercion, conflict of interest and favoritism.” He said he expected to announce a new policy in the coming months.
  • The university was taking a “fresh look” at how candidates for internal promotions and new hires are scrutinized that would include “better documentation and improved diligence practices.”

Schlissel said the Guidepost team and university leaders “will continue meeting with faculty experts and engage broadly across the university as part of the implementation process” in the months ahead.

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