April 24, 2019
Topic: Campus News
The University of Michigan is making changes to strengthen its efforts to prevent and address sexual and gender-based misconduct on campus following internal discussions of best practices and two comprehensive reviews of its related policies and procedures that began last year.
Among the changes being implemented are:
- Developing an umbrella policy on sexual misconduct that applies to the entire university community — faculty, staff and students.
- Launching mandatory online training for all faculty and staff, which was recommended by an internal working group.
- Having the Ann Arbor Office for Institutional Equity report directly to the provost.
“Our university has taken several actions in recent months to prevent sexual and gender-based misconduct and improve how we address this pressing problem for members of our community,” President Mark Schlissel said in an email to the university community on all three campuses.
“Preventing all forms of sexual and gender-based misconduct remains a top priority. We have been comprehensive in our work, and I appreciate the many people across our university who have devoted their time and expertise to helping us develop and implement these changes,” Schlissel said in the message, which coincides with April being designated Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Recent efforts also include creating a dedicated sexual misconduct resource and reporting website, which the university launched in September.
The efforts are informed by the recommendations outlined in reports from two reviews — one internal and one external — of U-M policies, procedures and practices related to sexual misconduct.
The president announced that the Ann Arbor campus’ Office for Institutional Equity — responsible for reviewing and investigating reports of harassment, discrimination and sexual misconduct — will report directly to Provost Martin Philbert, effective May 1.
Currently, the office reports jointly to the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and University Human Resources. The search for the next director of OIE is underway.
“As part of our ongoing efforts to combat all forms of harassment, discrimination and sexual misconduct, resources available for the Office for Institutional Equity will increase and it will report directly to the U-M provost,” Schlissel said.
OIE is in the process of increasing staffing and implementing a new database and case-management system to streamline its work.
In May, the university will begin to provide its mandatory online education module on sexual misconduct called, “Creating a Culture of Respect: Sexual Harassment and Misconduct Awareness.” All employees on the three U-M campuses, including Michigan Medicine, are required to take the online training.
A team — consisting of representatives from all three campuses and Michigan Medicine — is working to develop an overall policy on sexual misconduct that applies to all U-M students, faculty and staff, including Michigan Medicine.
An overall policy was a recommendation of the external review, and it will include common definitions to enhance consistency and further clarify how members of the community can report instances of misconduct.
The team also will make any needed improvements in procedures relating to how the university investigates and adjudicates sexual misconduct allegations for students, employees and third parties. The university will seek feedback from students, faculty and staff this fall to inform development of the updated policy and procedures.
Currently, employee matters fall under Standard Practice Guide 201.89-0: Sexual Harassment, while student-to-student matters are addressed under the U-M Interim Policy and Procedures on Student Sexual and Gender-based Misconduct and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence.
The Office of Student Life recently created a student advisory board — consisting of more than 30 student representatives — to provide important student feedback on the interim policy that was implemented last fall based on a court ruling by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals requiring the university to include a hearing process in its investigative resolution process.
Reviews and recommendations
Last year, Schlissel charged an internal Working Group on Faculty and Staff Sexual Misconduct with reviewing existing programming and activities related to sexual misconduct, and developing recommendations for faculty and staff education and training.
The group was co-chaired by Laurita Thomas, associate vice president for human resources, and Daniel Little, professor of philosophy in UM-Dearborn’s College of Arts, Sciences and Letters and former chancellor of the Dearborn campus.
Schlissel also commissioned outside experts at the law firm of Hogan, Marren, Babbo and Rose Ltd. to review U-M sexual misconduct policies and make any necessary recommendations.
Additional highlights of the internal and external recommendations that have been implemented or are underway include:
- A broad awareness campaign planned for fall 2019 to promote resources, reporting and a supportive, sexual misconduct-free culture.
- Building a multilayered training approach for employees that supports and maintains skill building and behavior change.
- Ongoing efforts to strongly encourage reporting — to institutional and to confidential options — among all members of the university community.
- Revision in February of the university’s policy on faculty-student relationships (Standard Practice Guide 601.22: Prohibitions Regarding Sexual, Romantic, Amorous and/or Dating Relationships Between Teachers and Learners), which now prohibits faculty members from having romantic or sexual relationships with undergraduate students on any of U-M’s three campuses.
- Establishment of the Office of the Staff Ombuds and appointment of Jacqueline Bowman as staff ombuds to serve as a neutral third party for staff members to raise concerns and receive information, resources and referrals. The office’s website will launch this summer.
Other U-M efforts
In addition to the efforts outlined in the recommendations following the reviews, the university recently joined the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine as a founding partner in a collaborative effort to prevent sexual harassment in higher education.
The collaborative will facilitate partnerships and joint action to address and prevent sexual harassment in the context of other damaging behaviors including bullying, incivility and other forms of harassment that occur across all campus settings and at all levels of the institutional hierarchy.
The university also participated in 2019 Association of American Universities campus survey on sexual assault in January, making it the third campus climate survey related to sexual misconduct for U-M. Results are expected to be available in fall 2019.