University to develop new discrimination, harassment policies


The University of Michigan will review existing policies and develop new ones related to discrimination and harassment, as part of a new effort that will be launched following an agreement announced June 17 with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

U-M is among the first higher-education institutions to come to an agreement with the Education Department from among scores of universities, colleges and school districts that are the subject of investigations into reports of discrimination and harassment on the basis of national origin and shared ancestry arising from campus tensions related to the Israel-Hamas war.

“The university condemns all forms of discrimination, racism and bias in the strongest possible terms. Since October 7, we have been deeply troubled by the statements and actions of some members of our community,” said President Santa J. Ono.

“U-M is required to uphold free speech under the First Amendment, even if that speech is reprehensible. We continually work to educate our community around the rights and privileges of free speech to ensure that debate does not tip over into targeted harassment or bullying.

“This agreement reflects the university’s commitment to ensuring it has the tools needed to determine whether an individual’s acts or speech creates a hostile environment, and taking the affirmative measures necessary to provide a safe and supportive educational environment for all.”

To report harassment or discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, shared ancestry or ethnicity, contact the Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office at 734-763-0235 or [email protected].

The agreement — which does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing — resolves two complaints filed with the Education Department that the university failed to respond appropriately to reports of alleged harassment of Jewish students. One complaint was brought by a medical student and the other was brought by someone who was not affiliated with the university.

As part of an expedited review that followed the two complaints, the Education Department reviewed summaries of  75 reports the university received alleging harassment and/or discrimination related to shared ancestry. The university had reviewed and responded to all the reports and, for matters involving students, offered support including counseling, facilitated dialogues, conflict coaching and safety resources. 

The Education Department and courts have long held that, with limited exceptions, public institutions of higher education could not infringe on students’ First Amendment right to free speech, even speech that is offensive and related to national origin and shared ancestry, said Timothy G. Lynch, vice president and general counsel.

With the June 17 announcement, the Education Department contends even speech protected by the First Amendment can create a hostile environment on campus and that colleges and universities must take action in those situations. That is a significant change in policy and enforcement on the part of the Education Department, Lynch said.

In the months following the start of the war last October, universities and colleges have become centers of protest and many, including U-M, have seen an increase in reports of discrimination and harassment of Jewish, Israeli, Muslim, Arab and Palestinian students.

Schools that receive federal funding are caught between two sometimes-conflicting requirements: the First Amendment, which requires schools to protect freedom of speech — even speech that is offensive and harmful — and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which requires schools to take action against harassment and work to avoid a hostile environment related to race, color and national origin.

The Education Department issued a letter to education institutions on May 7 with additional guidance to help schools navigate the complicated issue.

At U-M, several offices — including Campus Climate Support, the Office of Student Conflict Resolution, and the Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office — had been receiving and responding to reports related to discrimination and harassment. The agreement will streamline the process so all complaints of discrimination and harassment at U-M will be directed to ECRT. Safety concerns will continue to be sent to the Division of Public Safety and Security.

In addition, the university will:

• Review policies and procedures. The university will review existing policies and develop new policies and procedures related to Title VI.  The policies will explain that responses to all reports of discrimination and harassment will be coordinated by ECRT, and reports made to other colleges, departments and units will be given to ECRT for its assessment and response.

• Develop annual training. The university will develop annual training regarding discrimination and harassment based on race, color and national origin, including discrimination based on a student’s actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnicity. The training for faculty and staff will be offered by Feb. 1, 2025, and will be offered for students by Aug. 15, 2025.

• Assess climate. By Dec. 1, 2025, the university will develop and administer a climate survey to gauge the extent to which students or employees experience or witness discrimination or harassment.  Based upon survey results, the university will consider implementing reforms to improve campus climate.

• Review reports. ECRT will review the university’s response to all reports of discrimination or harassment on the basis of shared ancestry for the 2023-24 academic year, and will report that information to the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights for that year, as well as for the 2024-25 and 2025-26 academic years.



  1. Alex Laursen
    on June 18, 2024 at 6:06 pm

    “The university condemns all forms of discrimination, racism and bias in the strongest possible terms. Since October 7, we have been deeply troubled by the statements and actions of some members of our community,” said President Santa J. Ono.

    tell me you are incredibly biased without telling me youre incredibly biased?

  2. David Treece
    on June 19, 2024 at 7:20 am

    I applaud the University for addressing this, but I have to make a comment. Some so-called conservatives have suddenly embraced “cancel culture,” and the hypocrisy is stupefying. Many conservative leaders have engaged in the worst hate speech against LGBTQ people, including the current Speaker of the US House who literally made a career of working for a hate group. Speaker Johnson is (properly) quick to condemn anti-Semitic hate speech while engaging in all sorts of other hate speech. Undocumented immigrants are probably getting the most hate these days. I trust the University will do a good job on this, and the policies will be fair, complete, inclusive, and legal. Please avoid hypocrisy and double standards.

    • Andrew Kim
      on June 20, 2024 at 4:23 am

      Yes–hypocrisy is exactly that. However, it’s also interesting how some so-called liberals have advocated for said “cancel culture” frequently in the past but have changed their tune in response to the protests, making an appeal on the basis of free speech principles. Both sides are at fault here.

  3. Jennifer Sparks
    on June 19, 2024 at 9:48 am

    As a Jewish staff member who likes to think that the modern interpretation of “tikkun olam” matters, I have been incredibly disappointed with university leadership and its refusal to condemn the ongoing genocide against Palestinians. It is not a “war,” it is not an equal conflict. It is a U.S.-backed and funded genocide.

    We as an institution claim to be against colonialism, and while we of course have a long way to go right here to meaningfully support Land Back, it’s shameful that our institution continues to bend over backward to support the settler-colony of Israel.

  4. Michelle Iaconelli
    on June 19, 2024 at 11:22 am

    Last week, spoken to over 100 employees, the Assistant Vice President of the SSC stated that she did not know what BIPOC means. This statement was made immediately after discussing the University’s extraordinary efforts to support diversity, which was quite disheartening for the BIPOC community members present on the call. Additionally, the President’s response to the Palestinian community has been deeply disappointing. I urge you to reflect on these actions and consider how they align with the University’s stated values.

  5. David Baker
    on June 19, 2024 at 1:03 pm

    This seems bizarre to me. Suppose the claim that some of our students chanted in support of “Nazi liberation” is true (I have my doubts). If that is accurate it’s lamentable that they feel that way but they have a right to express their beliefs, same as students whose political opinions lie within the mainstream.

    I’m also not sure I see the point in conforming our policy to a directive that seems unlikely to hold up in court. “Protected speech sometimes isn’t protected” isn’t exactly airtight reasoning.

  6. University Record
    on June 20, 2024 at 9:02 am

    The previous comment has been edited at the commenter’s request.

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