(As prepared for delivery)
I want to thank Sonya Jacobs and Patricia Hurn for leading this critical initiative and hosting today’s assembly.
Since returning in January as president, I have made it a priority to help restore trust and faith in U-M.
This past year has been unlike any other in campus history, and I appreciate the support I have received from so many on campus. I know that change and transitions can be hard. I want to thank Sonya for her wise counsel on ways to make the University more inclusive, compassionate, and equitable.
I will step down as president on Oct. 13 – two weeks from tomorrow. I want to assure you that our 15th president, Dr. Santa Ono, is aware of your work and its value to the university. The commitment to culture change is a University priority and one that he will embrace and promote.
It’s equally important to reinforce that we all have an obligation to uphold our values as a place of learning, teaching, working and healing.
This was so apparent to me as the regents conducted their search for a new president. When they asked for input from the community, there was one overwhelming response: Integrity matters.
It was a profound and reassuring reflection on our faculty, staff and students that so many came forward to say this. It told me, and the regents, that this is a community with high standards, and high expectations.
Shared values of integrity, compassion, respect, accountability – these give us a roadmap as a major institution. I believe our moral compass is true. But we cannot be complacent about voicing and upholding our shared values.
I know we have all been hurt by the episodes of sexual and gender-based misconduct of recent years. It has been traumatic for many people.
But I am proud of how we have responded and how we continue to respond. We can’t underestimate the amount of work that has been done in this area.
We are going through all levels of the institution and are being very explicit about where we failed and where to put policies in place to uncover potential problems more quickly. We need to be more nimble. And we’re getting there.
In particular, I’m pleased we now have the CCRT – the Coordinated Community Response Team. This is a collaborative group of 30 people charged with discussing misconduct issues and providing input from different perspectives.
The CCRT is another important step toward our vision of becoming a national leader in protecting our community from inappropriate behavior and sexual misconduct. I have repeatedly said I want Michigan to be at the forefront of making college campuses safer, welcoming, and responsive.
We will never be perfect. But we must never relax our efforts to create a culture that is safe and respectful.
We can’t say, OK, we’ve fixed this. That was one of our problems in the past. We said we’ve fixed it, but we didn’t have any mechanisms in place to continue the conversation. We must keep focusing on this.
That’s why today’s assembly, and the overall work of culture change, is critical. We must hold each other accountable and lift each other up. Always. We all have an obligation to do this, at all levels of the University. If we don’t, we are not a true community.
I appreciate your dedication, patience and optimism.
By taking part in this culture journey, you are contributing to our understanding of what is needed to make U-M a place where all people feel safe and can thrive.
You should feel very good knowing you are making a difference. Thank you.