1. Reducing Misconduct on Our Campus

    March 22, 2016

    I want to update everyone on our ongoing work to reduce sexual and gender-based misconduct and other forms of interpersonal violence at the University of Michigan and provide support for those students impacted.

    For more than a year, we have joined together as a community to assess the campus climate, expand training for student groups and for all new employees, focus more efforts on groups that appear to be at a higher risk, and seek feedback to help us improve our University of Michigan Student Sexual Misconduct Policy.

    I greatly appreciate the engagement of many students, faculty and staff in this very important work. I am committed to providing the safest possible environment for all members of the University of Michigan community.

    Our goals in updating the policy were to make it more clear and efficient for all students using it, continue to ensure it is fair for all, and to meet new federal law and guidelines. In crafting the policy, we were informed by the university’s experience with cases brought under prior university policies, as well as our understanding about ways to encourage and support reporting and participation by all students.

    The full updated policy will be available April 6, and it will go into effect July 1. Renamed the University of Michigan Policy and Procedures on Student Sexual and Gender-based Misconduct and other forms of Interpersonal Violence, it will be more transparent about our practices and will provide step-by-step, detailed information to all students about our process. The most significant changes to the policy include:

    • Expanding definitions of prohibited conduct to include gender-based harassment, intimate partner violence and stalking, with a clearer picture surrounding consent. The policy reaffirms the practice of affirmative consent and further details force, incapacitation and coercion under prohibited conduct.
    • Defining responsible employees and their obligations for sharing information about suspected sexual assault, sexual or gender-based harassment, intimate partner violence and stalking with the university.
    • Providing further detail on how the university shares information with law enforcement to ensure public safety and comply with federal requirements.
    • Procedural changes to continue to ensure a fair process and to enhance transparency of the process for claimants, respondents and witnesses.

    More details are available in the University Record. In the fall, we’ll roll out the policy more fully, including providing training to incoming students. For faculty and staff, we’ll have an online tool that will help them understand their roles.

    The campus climate survey we conducted last year informed aspects of the new policy, including the addition of intimate partner violence and stalking to prohibited conduct.

    The changes are designed to make our policy more clear and help students better understand the choices available during each part of the process. We want it to be supportive of the needs of our students, while ensuring fairness and due process for all involved.

    These are very complex issues. We were assisted in our work by U-M faculty and staff experts, and our students, as well as external experts. While no policy on a subject as difficult as this will ever be perfect, I hope that the changes we have made will help us better address the issue. A single instance of sexual or gender-based misconduct or any form of interpersonal violence is one too many.

    I want to assure everyone that the revised policy is not the end of our work to address these important issues.

    Our Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC) is planning activities for Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April as part of its ongoing initiatives and prevention and to help survivors.

    Additionally, we will be launching an awareness campaign next month to share information and encourage survivors to seek support. The campaign was developed in collaboration with SAPAC and the U-M Injury Center. A top goal will always be to encourage survivors to seek help.

    I invite everyone to learn more about our Office for Institutional Equity, as well as SAPAC’s nearly 30 years of work to help students, and I thank all members of our community for their work to prevent sexual and gender-based misconduct and other forms of interpersonal violence at the University of Michigan.