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University of Michigan to review how it deals with cases of sexual misconduct

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ANN ARBOR, MI – The University of Michigan announced institutional changes to its sexual misconduct policies at Thursday’s board meeting.

Among those changes are an overhaul of its investigative body that examines misconduct, as well as rule changes such as banning teachers and students from entering into relationships.

President Mark Schlissel presented the policy changes in his opening remarks at the Regents’ meeting on July 15. The changes were informed both by community feedback, as well as recommendations from law firm WilmerHale reports on the sexual misconduct of former Marshal Martin Philbert and the late Dr. Robert Anderson.

Learn more about the Robert Anderson case here.

“The sweeping changes and actions we are announcing today are informed by the contribution of hundreds of people within our community and national best practices,†Schlissel said in a prepared statement. “This includes the faculty and staff who have been engaged in these issues for years, the students who have shared their experiences, and the engaged members of our faculty governance groups. “

Read more: University of Michigan President Regents to Announce Changes to Sexual Misconduct Policies

UM replaces the Office of Institutional Equity, whose investigations into various misconduct cases across the university have come under scrutiny in recent years. The new office will be called the Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office (ECRT).

The main differences will be that the new office will report directly to Schlissel and focus more on creating a culture that invites survivors to report their abuse, Schlissel said.

“The office we are transforming into ECRT previously was heavily focused on investigations,†he told MLive / The Ann Arbor News ahead of the meeting. “Now we add to that … care and support, as well as prevention and education. “

Although Schlissel said the OIE conducted its investigations well, it was not “optimally supportive of those who came forward”.

The ECRT, which will be officially formed by August 1, will be headed by Tamiko Strickman, the former director of the OIE. Her new title is that of ECRT Executive Director, and her staff will be made up not only of investigators, but also of people specializing in trauma support. Other positions include resolution offices which ensure complaint investigations are completed and information is shared among departments in the UM.

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

Strickman has been named in two lawsuits accusing her of mishandling sexual misconduct complaints while she was an investigator and deputy Title IX coordinator at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Read more: University of Michigan official mismanaged Title IX case at another Big 10 university, lawsuit says

“The university has carefully reviewed the Nebraska lawsuits and has full confidence in Tami Strickman to lead the ECRT office,†said UM spokesman Rick Fitzgerald.

A spokesperson for the University of Nebraska told MLive / The Ann Arbor News that there was no reason to question UM’s decision to appoint Strickman for the new role.

UM-Dearborn and UM-Flint will have their own versions of the ECRT that will report directly to the chancellors of those campuses, according to a UM statement.

ECRT will include a new Department of Prevention, Education Support, and Resources that specifically trains faculty and staff on sexual misconduct reporting policies.

“This office will enhance resources to educate our community and support those affected by sexual violence and harassment,†said Regent Jordan Acker. “He will do it carefully, and in a (trauma-informed) and culturally-informed manner.”

Supervisor relations, revocation of emeritus status

One of the main policy changes is the ban on relationships between subordinates and supervisors, or between students and teachers. This is a direct response to the controversy surrounding Philbert, who was involved in years of sexual misconduct that were discovered during his hiring process as dean of the School of Public Health in 2010. .

This policy will be taken on a case-by-case basis, Schlissel told MLive / The Ann Arbor News, but there will be no tolerance for anyone in a managerial position to “seek a personal or romantic relationship with someone they she has supervisory authority or career influence over.

“It’s exceptionally important because of the power dynamics,†he said. “Sometimes it’s hard for people to say no effectively and then you put an employee in a really tough spot. “

Acker added that UM is one of the first universities he knows to have implemented this specific policy.

Another policy now allows UM to revoke the honorary emeritus status of a faculty member if they violate the new misconduct policy. These faculty members have a variety of privileges which can be found here. The university will now implement a formal process to revoke this status if violated even after the person has left UM.

The university is also developing a policy to further punish retaliation against survivors who report abuse. UM’s current all-campus policy prohibits retaliation, but the policy will be clarified, Schissel said.

Strengthen investigations

Some of the previous failures of the OIE surveys and the academic recruitment process have stemmed from a “decentralization” of information, Schlissel said.

“One key thing that we found about failures is that information is often available, but it is (divided) in different places,†he told MLive / The Ann Arbor News. “We have to find ways to sweep it all together. “

UM will develop a database that will track not only violations of the sexual misconduct policy, but all complaints, Schlissel said. This will be made available to investigators and staff involved in the process of hiring and verifying employees.

“Our faculty committees are really good people,†Acker said, “and they want to do the right thing. To do the right thing, they need comprehensive information.

When Philbert was running for dean of the School of Public Health in 2010, officials uncovered allegations of sexual harassment against him from 2003 and 2005, according to the WilmerHale report. At least one person told then-provost Philip Hanlon and research committee chair Paula Lantz, in a confidential and anonymous poll, that Philbert subjected the person to “inappropriate sexual comments and suggestions. and unwanted â€. Philbert eventually became the dean, then the provost in 2017.

Read more: Investigation into former MU marshal reveals long history of sexual misconduct

Regarding Walter Lasecki, professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, the OIE investigated him in July 2020 for allegations of unwanted advances, trial and error and harassment at social gatherings and industry conferences .

The OIE investigation initially determined that Lasecki did not commit sexual misconduct or violate the university’s policies on sexual harassment. However, an independent investigation by the Association for Computer Machinery research group, conducted after the OIE investigation, found that Lasecki had committed a fault and had banned him from ACM events for five years, according to a door. – speech of the association.

Read moreComputer science professor quits over allegations of sexual misconduct at University of Michigan

Michael Wellman, chairman of the CSE department, said in June that he was aware of the ACM investigation, but that the organization had never informed him, or any UM official, of this. investigation. Lasecki announced his resignation in June.

Read moreComputer science professor quits over allegations of sexual misconduct at University of Michigan

Other policy changes:

  • UM will create a set of ‘shared values ​​and standards’ for the university led by Patricia Hurn, Dean of the School of Nursing and Sonya Jacobs, Head of Organizational Learning for UM and Senior Director of Faculty Development and leadership at Michigan Medicine. Their work will be carried out with Guidepost Solutions.
  • Adding prevention and education resources not only for victims of sexual violence, but also for other protected classes such as race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity and all marginalized communities.
  • Perform an assessment of the university’s ethics and compliance functions.
  • Centralize the reporting of complaints through an academic website, which can be accessed at sexualmisconduct.umich.edu/reporting-process.

Finally, some of Dr Anderson’s victims spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting. 1970 graduate Michael Soranno detailed Anderson touching Soranno with his “big sweaty, loveless hands.”

Soranno pointed out that as lawyers, Acker and Regent Mark Bernstein have represented victims of sexual abuse, so they know how to support them.

“I ask you to cooperate with the Michigan attorney general so that we can have the transparency we deserve,” he said.

Several Anderson survivors appealed to UM to allow Attorney General Dana Nessel to investigate Anderson’s conduct and the university’s role in it. Other survivors who spoke on Thursday included Chandra Montgomery Nicol, a 1987 graduate, and former UM wrestler Tad DeLuca.

Read more from The Ann Arbor News:

Michigan State University pushes for more nurses to treat survivors of sexual assault

University of Michigan President Regents to Announce Changes to Sexual Misconduct Policies

University of Michigan must release employee salary information after losing FOIA lawsuit


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