Comments from University of Michigan regents and others regarding the university’s changes in how it will address sexual and gender-based misconduct.
Board of Regents Chair Jordan Acker
This is an important day for the University and our community.
Today we continue the process of holding the University of Michigan accountable for harms that happened on our campus. I apologize but commit to you that there will be no compromising on our efforts to make sure this never happens again. With your collaboration and our collective commitment, we will get this right, so it never happens again on our campus. We believe you. We value you, and we want you to come forward with trust and confidence in our systems without fear from retaliation.
Through a yearlong process of understanding, listening, conversations with each other and with activists, survivors and experts in this space, I can say I’m proud of the work we have done and the course we are taking.
I want to thank all the regents, and Regent Emeritus Shauna Ryder Diggs, for their efforts in making this happen. They played an important role in assisting President Schlissel in this process including selecting Guidepost Solutions to lead the university’s efforts to formulate and implement best-in-industry practices that we can all be proud of. Our expectations of those efforts are high, and we are confident that we are on the right path.
The University of Michigan demands the best. So we sought out the best. Thank you to the Guidepost team that continues to lead this work: Asha Muldro, Courtney Bullard and Bradley Dizik.
Regent Ilitch deserves a special thank you and appreciation on this issue. Her hard work made this possible, and I am convinced that our campus is a better — and safer — place for all her work.
I want to highlight a couple of the structural and policy changes that we are announcing today, which will put the University of Michigan in line with its peers nationally and put it on the path for becoming the premier program in the nation.
First, the new Equity, Civil Rights, and Title IX Office will centralize our work to prevent, identify and respond to sexual and gender-based misconduct across all three campuses and Michigan Medicine. This office will also enhance resources to educate our community about and support those impacted by sexual violence and harassment. It will do so with care and in a trauma- and culturally informed way. And where sanctions become appropriate, a resolutions officer will be assigned to ensure accountability. I am also excited about this office’s collaboration with our research experts across the university. The opportunity to leverage our faculty experts will put us a cut above all our peer institutions nationally. We are also adding a prevention and education resource for civil rights to ensure our campus is also learning about the diversity and inclusion aspects of sexual and gender-based misconduct and how to prevent discrimination of other protected classes.
I want to recognize Tami Strickman, who I will vote to approve as the first executive director of the Equity, Civil Rights, and Title IX Office. This executive director position will report to the president, and have access to this board so that if there is ever an issue that requires escalation, Tami will have the independence and authority to do so.
This institution recognizes the importance of accountability and the need for an environment free of fear of retaliation for reporting. In fact, when I have met with groups from students, SACUA, and other faculty, these issues were brought up constantly as problems. To address these challenges: I am excited that our community will embark on a journey to transform our culture led by Dean Patti Hurn and Sonya Jacobs.
Together we will define our desired values and behaviors so that our systems, policies and practices all have consistency and integrity. We will create a culture where we are all held to account and communicate with each other without fear of retaliation. To this end, it is crucial that the University of Michigan continue to work with Guidepost Solutions to assess the integrity and effectiveness of our systems, policies and practices and ensure that our ethics and compliance program is in line with national best practices. The work on this continues. For example, 85 percent of Association of American Universities have centralized ethics and compliance offices and codes of ethical conduct. We do not have either. As I said, the work must continue.
Another of these new policies we are announcing will be a new standalone protection from retaliation policy which we will talk about more during a fall board meeting. Additionally, today we are introducing a new standalone supervisor relationship policy where supervisors will be prohibited from initiating or attempting to initiate a relationship. We recognize that our faculty and staff are adults. And as adults they must be free to enter consensual, healthy relationships. The power differentials, however inherent in our institutional structure, must be mitigated, as too often they can lead to abuses of power, conflicts of interest, favoritism, harassment or even coercion. This first-in-the-nation policy is designed to mitigate conduct that is unwanted but may not arise to levels of harassment which is covered by our sexual misconduct umbrella policy.
I want to pledge to the community, to survivors, to our students, faculty, staff and alumni: that this is not the end of the road, but the beginning of our collective journey to hold this institution accountable. We have an obligation to be the leader when it comes to national best practices, and I welcome your continued engagement, as well as my colleagues, in making sure we get there.
Lastly, I want to pledge to our community, students, faculty, staff and our survivors that this board will do everything in our power to ensure that we not only learn from the past mistakes, but do everything in our power to prevent, identify and respond to misconduct and discrimination, and most importantly — regain the trust we need to make survivors feel protected and know they are not alone. Today is the beginning of that work. I look forward to continuing to work with all our stakeholders to make that happen.
Regent Denise Ilitch
The actions announced today are a good start to address the significant problems outlined in the findings of WilmerHale, Hogan Marren and Guidepost Solutions. As we know, these breakdowns did not happen overnight, and they will not be solved quickly but these are strong initiatives to get us on the right path to address the common themes that we’ve heard over the past year and beyond: A lack of accountability throughout the university and a fear of retaliation which leads to fear of reporting, a culture of silence and unquestioning and a siloing of information amongst schools. Sexual and gender-based misconduct remains dramatically underreported. Today’s actions begin us on a path to correct this problem, and establish a speak-up culture where people have trust and confidence in our systems to report sexual and gender-based misconduct.
For an organization to truly change, all aspects of structure, policy and culture must be addressed. That takes institutional courage. By displaying institutional courage, it would bring the highest levels of safety, academic and social experience to students, faculty, staff and our community.
Guidepost gave us approximately 90 recommendations. Today we have announced many and while this is a start there is much more work to be done.
There are three recommendations by guidepost that must be implemented for real change to occur.
They recommended the creation of a centralized office of University Culture, Integrity and Compliance to coordinate and support the many ethics and compliance efforts embedded across the university’s three campuses, Michigan Medicine and our many disparate colleges, academic and administrative departments and units.
Secondly, they recommended this office be led by a universitywide Culture Integrity and Compliance Officer who would be independent and functionally report to this board.
The third recommendation is for the university to develop and maintain a University Code of Ethical Conduct. While a handful of our colleges and departments have developed one on their own initiative, which is wonderful, recognizing the need, there is currently no universitywide code of ethical conduct. For none of us!
This independent office and its officer would be responsible for this University Code of Ethical Conduct, the standalone protection from retaliation policy we are currently finalizing, and ensuring that our systems, policies and practices are all executed with integrity across the university’s three campuses and Michigan Medicine. Always! As Professor David Potter, member of SACUA, has so astutely said, this would be a safe place for people to report. So, we need to get that done.
As an aside, approximately 85 percent of our peer institutions with the American Association of Universities have Centralized Ethics and Compliance Programs. Of the 14 members of the B1G, 11 have centralized ethics, integrity and compliance programs. Only three Big Ten Universities do not … and University of Michigan is one of them.
I am excited that Sonya Jacobs and Dean Hurn are leading the culture change journey. I understand it will be done in phases. I ask both that the journey move swiftly.
I want to thank the survivors who have displayed amazing courage. To the community, if you see something, say something. If you are experiencing abuse or harassment, please report it. If you are not satisfied, please do not give up. We hear you. We believe you. And we want you to come forward with trust and confidence in our systems without fear from retaliation.
The changes announced today take enormous perseverance, work and care. I want to thank the administration, the U-M community, SACUA — Colleen Conway, David Potter and Allen Lui.
Thank you Guidepost — Asha Muldro, Courtney Bullard and Bradley Dizik. I look forward to you continuing this critical work.
I want to thank Sally Churchill for her hard work, tenacious commitment and being the glue to keeping it all together. She amazes me, she does multiple jobs. And thank you to all of my colleagues, the regents, for your support.
I want to give a special recognition to Chairman Acker for his commitment and doggedness in setting our institution on the right course and simply doing the right thing. His devotion to a safe environment is unwavering.
In conclusion, I want a culture that refuses to tolerate sexual and gender-based misconduct at this university and will continue to work toward that every day.
Provost Susan M. Collins
Thank you very much President Schlissel.
It is my pleasure to briefly describe two new policies that we are implementing as part of our work to ensure our standards and practices are consistent with our policies. Both of these will go into effect immediately, and they support our goals of rebuilding trust and enhancing accountability in our community.
Our new Supervisor Relationships Policy was drafted by faculty and staff experts working with Guidepost Solutions, and with extensive feedback from our university community.
It establishes very clear expectations of conduct related to the complex issue of supervisor-employee relationships, so as to address three key concerns.
First, we address concerns related to potential abuses of power by establishing that a supervisor may not initiate, or attempt to initiate, an “Intimate Relationship” with someone who reports directly or indirectly to them or over whom they have career influence. There are no exceptions.
At the same time, we fully recognize that such relationships may exist without supervisor initiation or coercion, and may have preceded university employment. So we address concerns related to favoritism by establishing that any such relationship must be disclosed — what is new here is that this responsibility to disclose is borne by the supervisor. Again, no exceptions.
Third, we address issues of conflict of interest and leadership accountability by establishing that the higher-level administrator must develop, and oversee a management plan that removes the conflict of interest — and review that plan at least annually to ensure it is still effective.
This policy is intended to be uncomplicated and straightforward. It frames our approach in a new way, while upholding our community’s expectations. This policy reaffirms our values that do not tolerate abuse of power or coercion.
In addition, we are revising our Policy related to Emeritus/Emerita faculty so as to align it with our other honorific policies and with our values.
Emeritus/emerita status is an honorific designation awarded by the Board of Regents to eligible retiring faculty who are recommended by their academic units.
The revised SPG will allow for removal of this status and its attendant privileges in very limited circumstances. Specifically, it has been narrowly crafted to ensure its scope reaches only those cases in which misconduct or other compelling facts and circumstances become known after the status has been conferred. The conduct must be of such a nature that, if known at the time, the honorific status would not have been conferred.
This provision, which likely will be used infrequently, is another important step in aligning our policies with our values.
I particularly want to thank SACUA for its important feedback on this policy, which led to a reframing of the procedures referenced in the policy.
Guidepost Solutions has also been a valuable partner — including through their numerous meetings with SACUA, the Senate Assembly, SACUA and Senate Assembly committees, as well as other faculty groups, and many, many others across campus.
Asha Muldro, Guidepost Solutions
My name is Asha Muldro, I am leading the Guidepost Solutions team helping the University of Michigan to transform its culture and sexual and gender-based misconduct practices to prioritize care, support, education and prevention. To date we have had more than 300 listening sessions with university leadership, tenured and non-tenured faculty, staff and survivors. We have been consistently impressed by the quality of everyone on campus and everyone’s collective desire to effect meaningful change. This has truly been a collaborative effort, and we thank all of the university’s stakeholders for their hard work and dedication creating solutions.
The actions announced today place the University of Michigan in line with national best practices, with its resource commitment and the creation of the Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office, a comprehensive centralized function that will lead with care and support. Prevention, Education, Assistance and Resource Department, which will be a nationally leading resource for faculty and staff that will build upon and collaborate with the university’s nationally recognized model for students, SAPAC. The addition of support and equity specialists who will lead with care and a trauma informed approach. The alignment with university research experts to continuously examine and improve the university’s practices and procedures and approaches to survivor care. And the establishment of a position for civil rights education to focus on issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, diversity and inclusion. The University of Michigan has committed to becoming the premier program for equity, civil rights and Title IX in the nation.
Of course, sustainable change requires the commitment of everyone on campus to get involved. The approach must be holistic. And most importantly, change must be embraced from both the bottom up and the top down. We are pleased that the university recognized the need to go on a cultural transformation journey to define its desired values and behaviors to inform the university’s systems, policies and practices so that they are executed ethically and always with integrity. All of these actions combined will place the University of Michigan on a path to become a national leader and an example for peer and aspirant universities and colleges nationwide.
We want to thank President Schlissel and the Board of Regents for going all in with these actions and doing it the right way, and for making a commitment to continuing this work so it is sustainable and consistent with national best practices, and in some instances being a leader in setting the next practice. The University of Michigan seems truly committed to reaching its highest ideals. There is still a lot of work to do. And this is just the beginning of that journey where the entire university community will play a role in defining the future. We look forward to continued collaboration and commitment to achieve a safer and healthier campus community at the University of Michigan.