U-M releases draft policy on sexual, gender-based misconduct for all U-M campuses

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the flint river flowing through Flint, Michigan on the UM-Flint campus

By Dana Elger, Public Affairs, University of Michigan
for The University Record

The University of Michigan released its draft umbrella policy for addressing sexual and gender-based misconduct that would apply to students, faculty, staff and third parties on the Ann Arbor, Dearborn, and Flint campuses.

The University of Michigan Policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Misconduct includes common definitions for prohibited conduct and responsible employees, separate procedures for addressing student and employee (and third party) misconduct allegations, and further clarifies ways to report misconduct and the available confidential resources. 

"The actions we have taken to prevent and address sexual misconduct at U-M, including the new draft policy, further our goal of ensuring a safe and respectful community for all. Preventing sexual misconduct at U-M is everyone's responsibility," said President Mark Schlissel.

The policy and procedures were developed by a team β€” consisting of representatives from all three U-M campuses, including Michigan Medicine β€” and informed by the recommendations of an external review of existing campus sexual misconduct policies and procedures, the study of more than 20 policies at peer institutions, and federal guidance. 

The university now is seeking broad feedback on the draft policy and procedures through Nov. 22, as well as reaching out to various groups on all U-M campuses for direct feedback. All materials are available for review on U-M's sexual misconduct website

Creating the umbrella policy is the latest step in U-M's longstanding sexual misconduct prevention and awareness efforts. Earlier today, U-M released the findings from the second national campus climate survey on sexual assault and misconduct sponsored by the Association of American Universities. U-M's participation in the 2019 AAU survey marks the third time in four years U-M has surveyed students on sexual misconduct. U-M conducted its own survey in 2015 and also participated in the 2015 AAU survey.   

U-M recently implemented mandatory training on sexual and gender-based harassment and misconduct awareness for all employees on the three U-M campuses, including Michigan Medicine. So far, 52 percent of all employees have completed the training. The deadline for completion is Dec. 31.

The draft policy covers behaviors such as sexual assault, harassment or exploitation, gender-based harassment, sexual or gender-based stalking, sex or gender-based discrimination, intimate partner violence, retaliation and violation of protective measures.

Responsible employees

Responsible employees – employees who are responsible for reporting concerns of sexual misconduct to the university – are clearly identified in the policy as university administrators and supervisors and employees in certain designated areas, such as Student Life, Athletics, Division of Public Safety and Security and others. Responsible employees include: regents; executive officers; associate or assistant vice presidents and provosts; deans, directors, department heads and chairs (including those serving in interim and assistant or associate roles); and supervisors who have authority over other employees.

Employee procedures

Employee procedures are largely consistent with current policies, procedures and resources for addressing employee sexual and gender-based harassment and misconduct, and is now presented in a single set of procedures. 

Employee procedures include an opportunity to request interim measures – to provide for the safety and well-being of the parties or the U-M community – and an investigation conducted by the Office for Institutional Equity, which results in a report that summarizes all of the relevant evidence and includes a determination of responsibility. New aspects under the employee procedures include identification of witnesses in the report and the sharing of sanctions with the parties involved, which can range from required education or training to termination of employment.

There continues to be no hearing in the employee procedures and the OIE finding may not be appealed within the procedures. Faculty and staff may continue to use any grievance process applicable to their positions to challenge sanctions.

Student procedures

The student procedures in the draft policy remain consistent with the current interim student sexual misconduct policy.

In January, U-M revised its student policy to comply with the ruling of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that live, direct cross-examination must be conducted in student sexual misconduct proceedings where credibility is at issue and suspension or expulsion may result. Students may request to participate in the hearing remotely where they are located in separate locations and use technology to communicate with each other. 

The interim student sexual misconduct policy has been under review since January and the university will continue to receive feedback until Nov. 22.  A student advisory committee is in place to provide feedback on the student procedures and will continue its work.  

The student procedures continue to offer students two options for resolving matters: 

  • Investigative resolution: includes investigation by the Office for Institutional Equity with a hearing conducted by a hearing officer and questioning of parties by students.
  •  Adaptable resolution: a voluntary, non-disciplinary, remedies-based process that includes the use of restorative options. Use of adaptable resolution must be agreed on by both students and approved by Title IX coordinator.

Students continue to have the opportunity to appeal the finding on the basis that a significant deviation from the procedures impacted the outcome of the case in a way that is unfair or because there is new and relevant information that was unavailable at the time of the investigation. 

Students also may appeal the sanction as clearly inappropriate or disproportionate for the conduct for which the person was found responsible. 

U-M is required under applicable law and regulations to have policies on and to respond to reports of sex discrimination, including various forms of sexual and gender-based misconduct, and failure to do so is a violation that could, among other things, lead to a loss of federal funding.

There are pending federal regulations by the Department of Education that may affect the final policy.  Accordingly, the university expects to implement the policy and procedures sometime in early 2020 after it has considered the relevant community feedback and analyzed the application any new regulations. 

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