Reducing sexual misconduct and creating a climate where survivors are confident the university supports them are keys to U-M’s work to improve campus health and safety, President Mark Schlissel said Wednesday.
Schlissel presented the Raymond W. Waggoner Lectureship on Ethics and Values in Medicine at Ford Auditorium. He said addressing sexual misconduct is essential to providing a healthy learning environment for students.
The president discussed the work of the campus Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center, established in 1986, and reviewed the initiatives underway to improve prevention and education efforts on campus.
“We are in the midst of revising our sexual misconduct policy based on the experience we gained in recent years through our current policy, on what we’ve learned from other universities and what we’ve learned based on our survey,” Schlissel said.
The survey, released in June, found U-M students overwhelmingly say they feel safe from sexual misconduct on the Ann Arbor campus, yet about 11 percent of all students reported some form of nonconsensual sexual behavior during the past year. That unwanted behavior could include touching, kissing, fondling or penetration.
A separate survey of the student body this spring to gauge the campus climate regarding sexual misconduct found similar results.
Schlissel said university goals include diminishing the frequency of misconduct, and improving the speed and efficiency of such investigations.
“We want more students to come forward,” he said.
Schlissel said the university’s current policy on consent states that it must be voluntary and can be withdrawn at any time — and consent cannot be given if a person is intoxicated. He said part of addressing sexual misconduct involves addressing the overuse of alcohol by students.
He added that continuing to educate students about what constitutes sexual misconduct could also help maintain awareness of the issue. Multiple doses of training are provided, beginning with education for new students.
“We really have to ramp up the repetitive nature of the training on this issue,” he said.
Initiatives listed by the president that are already part of the university’s efforts to combat sexual misconduct include:
• Online modules on alcohol and understanding sexual assault, which must be completed before new students arrive on campus.
• Presentations during freshman orientation sessions.
• An effort involving student volunteers conducting workshops on healthy relationships, sex and decision making every fall semester.
• Bystander intervention training for student leaders and key student groups, including those participating in recreational sports, Greek Life, ROTC and intercollegiate athletics.
The Waggoner Lectureship was created in honor of the late Dr. Raymond Waggoner, emeritus professor and past chairman of the Department of Psychiatry, who exemplified the highest standards of integrity and ethics throughout his career.