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Federal officials to visit campus as part of ongoing Title IX investigation

By Claire Bryan, Daily Staff Reporter
Published April 4, 2014

Investigators from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights will visit campus later this month to hold a series of focus groups as part of their ongoing review of the University’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations.

Anthony Walesby, associate vice provost for academic and faculty affairs and the University’s Title IX Coordinator, sent an e-mail Friday afternoon to all students, faculty and staff, as well as a number of targeted groups of students, announcing federal investigators will visit campus to assess the climate related to sexual assault on campus.

“Working closely with faculty, staff and students, the University has taken several steps over the years to ensure our approach to these important issues is fair, equitable, thorough, and consistent with Title IX and the University of Michigan's core values,” Walesby wrote in the e-mail. “I hope you will find time to share your thoughts and insights with OCR.”

The federal investigation stems from a formal complaint lodged by Douglas Smith — a former University professor who has been a vocal critic of the University’s administration — alleging that the University improperly responded to allegations of sexual misconduct committed by former kicker Brendan Gibbons.

The Michigan Daily reported Gibbons had been permanently separated from the University in December after being found responsible for an act of sexual misconduct.

A February letter from OCR addressed to University President Mary Sue Coleman — which was made available on the University’s Public Affairs website — said the investigation in no way gives merit to allegations of University misconduct and acts as a “neutral fact-finder.”

Students are encouraged to attend open office hours Tuesday night as well as Wednesday and Thursday morning in the Michigan Union to provide input to OCR investigators. OCR will also host two focus groups — one designated for males and one for females — where students can speak with investigators.

Subgroups of student groups, such as sorority members, received customized e-mails and are being encouraged to attend specialized focus groups on Monday afternoon in the Michigan Union.

The University was first notified of the OCR investigation in late February. In an interview Friday afternoon, University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the University knew from the beginning a campus visit would be a part of the investigation.

“This is the University fully cooperating with the OCR and their review on our campus,” he said. “Finding rooms for them to meet and sending out the e-mails inviting everyone to meet with them is part of this cooperation.”

Focus group sessions:

Male students:
Wednesday, April 16 at 4:30 p.m.
Welker Room, Michigan Union

Female students:
Wednesday, April 16 at 4:30 p.m.
Room 2105B, Michigan Union

Open OCR office hours:

Tuesday, April 15
8 p.m. to 9 p.m. – Blain Room, Michigan Union

Wednesday and Thursday, April 16 and 17
9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m to 9 p.m.
Room 2105D, Michigan Union


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