By Will Greenberg, Daily News Editor
Published February 25, 2014
The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights will investigate the University’s response to a Title IX complaint concerning a 2009 sexual misconduct case involving former kicker Brendan Gibbons.
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The Michigan Daily reported on Jan. 28 that Gibbons was permanently separated from the University after violating the University’s Sexual Misconduct Policy, according to documents reviewed by the Daily.
University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald confirmed the University was notified of the investigation Monday night.
“We're very proud of our student sexual misconduct policy, our prevention efforts and our programs to support survivors of sexual misconduct,” Fitzgerald said in a statement. “We will fully cooperate with the Department of Education and we believe that a review of our policy, programs and investigations will conclude that the University of Michigan is doing what it should in this important area.”
A letter from the OCR to Doug Smith, a former University professor who has been vocal against the University as information about the Gibbons case has surfaced, said it will investigate Smith’s complaint about the case. Smith issued his complaint in August 2013, accusing the University of failing to respond in a timely manner to a rape incident at a fraternity house that involved a female University student and two University football players.
Jim Bradshaw, a spokesman for the Department of Education, said no other information can be confirmed by the OCR at this point regarding the details of the report.
The letter said the OCR will investigate Smith’s complaint “that the University failed to promptly and equitably respond to complaints, reports and/or incidents of sexual violence of which it had notice, and, as a result, students were subjected to a sexually hostile environment.”
The letter also noted a second complaint regarding the same issue, which the OCR will be investigating in conjunction with Smith’s. The source of the complaint is unknown.
Another letter from the OCR addressed to Coleman was made public on the University’s public affairs website. The letter details the requests of the investigation, noting that the investigation of an allegation does not give merit to that allegation and the ORC is simply a “neutral fact-finder.”
The letter also includes a list of documents that the OCR is requesting from the University, including the University’s policies and procedures regarding sexual harassment from the 2011 to 2014 school years, as well as any changes to those policies. The department also requested complaints or reports of sexual harassment made during that time, as well as all communications between University staff, faculty, administration or the Board of Regents on this topic.
Additionally, the OCR is requesting the names of anyone involved in the University’s Title IX coordination, personnel who investigate discrimination and harassment based on sex, as well as a description of the role of law enforcement in dealing with such cases. These were only a handful of the 21 specific requests made in the letter.
The OCR may also conduct interviews with staff members and will make a campus visit if necessary, according to the letter.