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SAPAC Director discusses new policy with regents

James Coller/Daily
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By Austen Hufford, Online Editor
Published February 21, 2014

Holly Rider-Milkovich, director of the University’s Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Center, spoke to the University’s Board of Regents Thursday about SAPAC’s role in the community.

In her speech, Rider-Milkovich lauded the University's decision to keep details of sexual misconduct inquiries private, possibly referring to former kicker Brendan Gibbons’ case, which resulted in his permanent separation from the University.

“I am also proud that this University has withstood tremendous pressure and not revealed private student concerns and private student information,” Rider-Milkovich said. “From my national leadership role I believe that it was the right choice to make.”

In January, the Daily reported that Gibbons had been permanently separated from the University in December 2013 for violating the Student Sexual Misconduct Policy in 2009. Despite national media attention, the University has refused to release information about the case, citing federal privacy laws and University policies. Experts told the Daily some information, including the outcome of sexual assault proceedings, can legally be released. Gibbons was never charged with a crime.

In an op-ed written by Rider-Milkovich that was published in The Detroit News Wednesday, she wrote that while transparency in how the University deals with sexual misconduct is important, respect for student privacy takes precedence.

“The unintended chilling consequence of publicly sharing student information may mean fewer reports and less safety for everyone,” Rider-Milkovich wrote.

She also wrote that a report on the University’s handling of instances of sexual misconduct will be released in the fall.

At the meeting, Rider-Milkovich discussed how changes in the sexual misconduct policy led to a marked increase in reporting. Following changes in federal guidance, the University changed its policy to an investigative model under which the University investigates all allegations of student sexual misconduct. An interim policy began in 2011 and the final policy took effect in August.

There were fewer than five allegations of sexual assault or sexual harassment reported yearly to the University in 2009 and 2010. In contrast, there were 68 sexual misconduct allegations reported in 2011 and 75 in 2012, according to Rider-Milkovich.

“I am glad that these numbers have risen dramatically,” she said. “These speak to an increase in the effectiveness of our sexual misconduct policy and an increase in the belief among our student body that the University of Michigan has the policies in place to be able to address these issues effectively.”