1. Talking Openly about Sexual Misconduct

    June 24, 2015

    I feel personally responsible for the safety and well-being of every student at the University of Michigan. As a university president, a physician-scientist, an educator and a father, the issue of sexual misconduct keeps me awake at night.

    I’d like to share with you the results of the University of Michigan’s campus climate survey on sexual misconduct experienced by our students. The survey was one of the initiatives I previously wrote about in our work to address sexual misconduct on campus and help survivors.

    Earlier this year, 3,000 students were selected as a representative sample and invited to participate in the survey designed by expert University of Michigan faculty from the Institute for Social Research.

    Our goal is to gain a deep understanding of sexual misconduct affecting students on our campus. Thanks to the efforts of many, we are now armed with strong, scientific data that we can use to address this very complex problem.

    Though existing research provides some evidence that young people enrolled in college are at less risk of sexual assault than those who are not, the risk on campuses must be addressed. Even a single instance of sexual assault at the university should not be tolerated.

    The findings from our survey give us information at a level of detail we have never had before. We will use this information to improve our education and prevention efforts, enhance existing services that help survivors and others, and improve our investigation procedures, while working to create a safer, more respectful and more caring community overall.

    U-M is making findings from the survey public to promote transparency and allow others to learn from our data. I described some of the rationale for our transparency in an essay published today by the Washington Post.

    Universities need the best information possible to address sexual misconduct and make our campuses safer. We must now have the difficult conversations that will allow us to develop and implement the most effective solutions.

    Those conversations are taking place, here at U-M and elsewhere. I attended the “Let’s End Campus Sexual Assault Summit” earlier this month in Lansing. The summit was convened by Michigan First Lady Sue Snyder and members of the State Legislature. It brought together university officials, survivors of sexual assault, advocates and policymakers, with one of its goals being to “make Michigan a leader in ending sexual assault among the college aged population.”

    All of us at U-M have much work ahead to ensure that a Michigan college experience is everything our students want it to be and deserve. We’ve taken an important step today with the release of our new research.