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The University of Michigan implemented a new policy Monday requiring members of the community to disclose all charges and convictions of felonies within a week of the charge or conviction. The policy applies to all faculty and staff, including student employees, volunteers and visiting scholars.
According to the policy, those who do not disclose felonies will face serious consequences and potential dismissal.
After the felony charge or conviction has been self-reported, the University Human Resources department will assess the incident based on the gravity of the offense, the timeliness and accuracy of the disclosure and the relevancy to the role held at the University.
The reporting of a felony does not necessarily mean the individual will face disciplinary action.
Laurita Thomas, associate vice president for Human Resources, said the University implemented the new policy to ensure the campus is as safe as possible.
“We became aware of circumstances where we were not aware of this kind of situation across higher ed, not necessarily at Michigan,” Thomas said. “And many institutions have moved to enhance the safety of our community and this knowledge will help us do that.”
When asked about how Human Resources will determine what consequences, if any, are deemed appropriate, Thomas said they will use similar standards to the criminal history questions and background checks all applicants are required to go through before employment.
“We indicated in the announcement we would use criteria similar to our background check policy,” Thomas said.
According to the U-M Graduate Employees’ Organization, the new policy applies to research assistants but does not apply to graduate student instructors or other graduate students covered by the collective bargaining unit.
“We want to let our bargaining unit members know that this does not apply to employees who are ‘covered by the terms of a collective bargaining unit,’ which includes GSIs and GSSAs under the GEO contract,” the statement read. “However, if you hold an RA position in addition to a GSI or GSSA appointment, this new policy does apply to you.”
Some faculty have expressed concern about the new policy.
The Daily obtained an email sent by Rowell Huesmann, professor of communication studies and psychology, to the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs. Huesmann claimed the policy disregards the rights of all faculty and staff to due process by requiring disclosure of charges and not just convictions.
“To me, it seems like an outrageous violation of faculty, staff, and student rights,” Huesmann wrote. “The policy not only requires one to report ‘convictions,’ (which would be bad enough), but it also requires one to report simply ‘being charged’ with a felony which often involves no ‘due process.’”
In response to these concerns, Thomas stated the University upholds legal procedures and respects the rights of all community members.
“The due process continues,” Thomas said. “If we make a decision that the individual wants to appeal, the normal appeal processes at the University will be available.”
Thomas said the University is not stripping faculty of due process, and the wellbeing of the campus is most important.
“Felony charges are very serious; it means that they have found enough evidence to do the charge, and so we will review charges in order to ensure the safety of our community,” Thomas said.
Correction: A previous version of this article said the policy applied to residential advisers instead of research assistants.