1. Announcement of actions and changes at July 15, 2021, Board of Regents meeting

    July 15, 2021

    (As prepared for delivery)

    For the next portion of our meeting, the Regents and I will be joined by several members of our community to share the actions we are taking to enact systemic changes that will transform how U-M prioritizes the principles of care, support, and education in the prevention and adjudication of sexual misconduct.

    We hired the nationally recognized firm Guidepost Solutions to collaborate with us in this transformative work.

    For any organization to truly change, it must first ask whether its current culture reflects our desired values and behaviors. Answering that question requires us to evaluate all facets of the university. This is where a new chapter of our journey as a university community begins.

    With guidance from the Regents, our work includes changes that take effect immediately, while also serving as a starting point as we embark, together, on a transformation that will be co-created by our community.

    The sweeping changes and actions we are announcing today are informed by the input of hundreds of people within our community as well as national best practices. This includes faculty and staff who have been engaged in these issues for years, students who have shared their experiences, and committed members of our faculty governance groups. I thank everyone who has contributed to this work.

    Our goal is simple: to transform our university and its culture to reflect the core beliefs of our community and prioritize the principles of care, support, education and prevention across our institution.

    The changes and actions we will announce today, and others in the near future implement recommendations aimed at preventing harm, like the kind we saw in the external report into the misconduct of Martin Philbert.

    They effect structural change for the university and empower members of the university community.

    They address lived experiences and fears in our community, and the feeling among some that survivors of misconduct have nowhere to turn.

    As President of this university, and on behalf of the regents and university community, let me say today and always to those who may have suffered harm, that we believe you. We value you. And we want you to come forward with trust and confidence in our systems and without the fear of retaliation.

    The changes and actions we announce today reflect our community’s need for a safe and supportive university, the accountability that must be the foundation of our shared future, and a culture that fosters an environment of mutual respect and support for all.

    I will briefly summarize the changes and actions, and then some of our colleagues will join us to provide additional details.

    Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office

    First, I am submitting a supplemental action item to create the Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office. This will replace and subsume our Office for Institutional Equity.

    This new office will lead with a focus on care, support, education, and prevention. It will report directly to the university president, and add about a dozen positions in these key areas to assist members of our community, while simultaneously improving the university’s investigative practices and providing oversight of sanctionable resolutions.

    These changes address concerns about how OIE functioned – while also taking the additional important steps of adding support and care resources for complainants and respondents so everyone feels supported and no one on our campus ever feels alone.

    For instance, the office will have equity specialists to provide help and care both apart from and throughout the investigation process, and a resolutions officer who will track outcomes, ensure follow up and monitor for compliance with sanctions.

    An entire new department within the new ECRT called Prevention, Education, Assistance and Resources will build on our leadership in SAPAC and provide similarly high quality and comprehensive prevention education and support for faculty and staff.

    To lead this new unit, I am recommending the appointment of Tamiko Strickman as Special Advisor to the President and Executive Director, Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX.

    Tami’s leadership has been pivotal as we worked through these changes, and she is the right person to lead us into this new era of better preventing and addressing misconduct and discrimination in our community.

    The Regents will vote on the creation of the office and this appointment later in our meeting.

    Additionally, to further collaboration with our community, we have established a Title IX advisory committee of students, faculty and staff to provide perspectives and input on policies, procedures, prevention efforts and other matters.

    Relationships policy

    Trust among our faculty members, staff, students and the community requires that all relationships on and off our campus are regarded with the utmost respect and that workplace power differentials are addressed properly.

    To ensure that, we are enacting a new policy that prohibits supervisors from initiating or attempting to initiate an intimate relationship with a supervisee or those they have the authority to influence the career or employment status of.

    This new policy is at the forefront of such work nationally and directly confronts power differentials and the potential for exploitation and favoritism in the workplace. It goes into effect immediately.

    Emeritus/Emerita policy

    Emeritus and emerita status are awarded to retiring faculty who have made substantial contributions to the institution and represent the high standards of our university.

    Another systemic change we are making immediately enables the Board of Regents to revoke emeritus and emerita status when new and compelling facts and circumstances become known and evaluated after a faculty member retires.

    The standard for emeritus and emerita status at a place like U-M is and should be set with the highest sense of responsibility. Importantly, a revocation would eliminate the ability to receive certain privileges and benefits when warranted.

    Culture change working group and surveys

    I’ve previously announced our cultural journey that will in part engage our community in the enunciation of a set of unifying, shared values and set a lasting standard for campus behaviors, systems and practices we can all be proud of.

    This will include a series of surveys on the university culture and climate that will be conducted over the fall and winter semesters.

    We will conduct a climate survey regarding sexual misconduct for faculty and staff, and over the next two semesters we will be launching a culture survey that will ask everyone to help define our desired values and behaviors.

    Jacobs and Dean Hurn who are leading this process will share more about this shortly.

    Umbrella policy

    We’re anticipating new federal guidance that will inform our final “umbrella” policy regarding sexual and gender-based misconduct. We hope to announce details of this policy early in the Fall semester.

    Our interim policy, which was informed by community feedback, remains in effect on all three campuses and at Michigan Medicine.

    It includes common definitions for prohibited conduct, procedures for addressing allegations against students and those against employees and third parties, and further clarifies available confidential resources and ways to report misconduct.

    Protections from retaliation

    U-M’s excellence will be sustained only when all members of the community are accountable for respectful and ethical behavior – and members of the community are not afraid to speak up when they believe these expectations have not been met.

    To uphold these values and enhance accountability, we are strengthening and clarifying our policy against any form of retaliation with more explicit prohibitions.

    We want to address concerns and fears we have heard about retaliation and help all in our community thrive as they pursue their career and educational ambitions.

    Hiring and promotions

    For hiring and promotions into leadership positions, we are examining ways to further scrutinize candidates and ensure that information about policy violations and other misconduct is available to decisionmakers and systematically considered with respect to internal and external candidates.

    This work continues and will be shared publicly in the months ahead,

    Additional updates

    Additionally, we have streamlined how to report instances of misconduct and launched a new reporting page, following the recommendation that we ensure that students and employees are aware of the avenues for reporting sexual misconduct.

    And to ensure that this investment in our collective future is sustainable and effective, and that our systems, policies and practices always have integrity and are informed by our desired values and behaviors, we will be examining our various compliance and ethics functions on campus and considering whether they are aligned with best practices around the country.

    Close

    Before we share additional details, I want to express my thanks to the Guidepost Solutions team, Wilmer Hale, the many individuals across the university whose collaboration and expertise resulted in today’s actions and changes, and the hundreds of members of our community whose experiences and commitment to a better U-M are making us a more supportive and accountable university.

    These important contributions, and the leadership of the Regents, together have inspired us to redouble our efforts to address the harms and the pain experienced by too many in our community and prevent them in the future.

    Today’s announcements are just our latest steps to enhance prevention, education, support, facilitate a cultural change at U-M, and address the harms caused by the late Robert Anderson and more recent cases. The Regents, leadership team, and I are committed to getting this right, and we will provide frequent updates as new work is completed and accountability measures are reported.

    All of us at this virtual table agree that the journey to a better Michigan will be ongoing – as we strive to be a place where all in our community feel the respect, safety and support they deserve, where everyone can pursue their dreams and ambitions, and where we live up to the highest standards of excellence as a leading public university.