1. An update from President Schlissel on U-M’s work to prevent and address sexual misconduct

    April 24, 2019

    To All Members of the University Community:

    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. Earlier this semester, I mentioned that additional work was in progress, and as we honor Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I want to update everyone on where we stand now.

    External Review and Overall Policy on Sexual Misconduct

    I previously announced that we had engaged an outside expert to examine our policies, procedures and practices around sexual misconduct. We wanted to be as thorough as possible in our examination of how we can improve our university in this critical area. The external review report was finalized this month, and it is available here.

    University leaders have engaged with the firm conducting the review over the past few months, and we have implemented or are in the process of implementing many of the report’s primary recommendations. These include measures to improve transparency and help community members more easily report incidents of sexual misconduct.

    The review concluded that we could improve the consistency of policies across the university and should update procedures accordingly. Specifically, one of the recommendations in the report I want to point out is that we adopt “an umbrella policy that addresses sexual misconduct and applies to the entire University community.” An overarching policy with common definitions will enhance consistency and further clarify how members of our community can report instances of misconduct.

    I have charged a team of staff from all three campuses and Michigan Medicine with implementing recommendations from the external review. They are working to create an umbrella policy, as well as to make improvements to procedures that apply to faculty and staff. We will seek feedback from students, faculty and staff this fall to inform development of the updated policy and procedures.

    U-M Working Group Progress and Reports

    We will launch our new mandatory online training on sexual misconduct for all faculty and staff in May. The module is titled “Creating a Culture of Respect: Sexual Harassment and Misconduct Awareness.”

    This education and prevention program was recommended by a working group of U-M faculty and staff experts from all three campuses and Michigan Medicine. They examined how we might improve awareness, training, reporting and accountability regarding all forms of sexual misconduct, along with improving overall workplace culture. The group issued two reports, and both Phase I and Phase II are available on my website.

    We launched our centralized website with Sexual Misconduct Reporting & Resources last year following another recommendation from this group. The remaining recommendations also are being implemented now or in the near future, including a broad campaign to make the community more aware of existing resources and to promote reporting and a supportive, sexual misconduct-free culture. We will also be implementing  a multi-layered training approach.

    Ann Arbor Office for Institutional Equity

    As part of our ongoing efforts to combat all forms of harassment, discrimination and sexual misconduct, resources available for the Ann Arbor Office for Institutional Equity will increase and it will report directly to the Ann Arbor U-M provost. The office is adding additional staff and is implementing a new database and case management system to streamline work.

    OIE’s mission is to provide leadership and support on matters relating to equity, diversity, respect and inclusiveness for all members of the University of Michigan community. It conducts investigations of alleged sexual and gender misconduct and is responsible for the university’s Title IX compliance functions and reporting. Currently, the office reports to both the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and University Human Resources. Given the office’s extensive responsibilities and importance to all students, faculty and staff in our community, I felt a single leadership structure at the highest levels of the campus would strengthen and further enhance our work. This structure, which is also used by many of our peer institutions, will be effective May 1, 2019.

    Additional Updates

    • The Office of Student Life, in partnership with OIE, created the Interim Policy Student Advisory Board to help us review our interim Policy & Procedures on Student Sexual & Gender-Based Misconduct & Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence. The interim policy was implemented last fall based on a court ruling by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The advisory board – comprised of more than thirty student representatives – is providing important student voices as we evaluate the interim policy and its challenges, including the hearing process that was required by the court ruling. Their input will be invaluable as we consider the next steps for the policy, and will further inform the work of the team developing the overall policy and procedural changes.
    • The University of Michigan has joined the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine as founding partners in an action collaborative working to prevent sexual harassment in higher education. The collaborative will facilitate partnerships and joint action to address and prevent sexual harassment. It will deal with the issue of 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. U-M’s efforts in this collaborative will be led by faculty members Fiona Lee and Sara Pozzi, and you can read more about them and this important work in the University Record.
    • Following significant revisions to the university’s policy on faculty-student relationships, faculty members are prohibited from having romantic or sexual relationships with undergraduate students on any of our three campuses. The new Standard Practice Guide 601.22: Prohibitions Regarding Sexual, Romantic, Amorous and/or Dating Relationships Between Teachers and Learners is informed by the recommendations of the working group consisting of faculty from the Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint campuses.
    • I thank all of the students who participated in this year’s AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Misconduct. The survey will provide important data for our work going forward, and we’ll share the results when they are available this fall.

    Preventing all forms of sexual and gender-based misconduct remains a top priority for our Board of Regents and the executive team. 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.

    What will not change is our values. We must always encourage reporting, support claimants and survivors, and have zero tolerance for retaliation against those who report.

    Thank you for your diligence and continued work.

    Sincerely,

    Mark S. Schlissel
    President