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The University of Michigan announced a finalized sexual and gender-based misconduct policy on Thursday that includes more concrete definitions of misconduct, clarifies ways to report misconduct and outlines procedures for addressing sexual and gender-based misconduct allegations.  This policy replaces the interim umbrella policy, Standard Practice Guide and other related policies that were instituted in August 2020.

The new policy will take effect on all three U-M campuses and Michigan Medicine on Oct. 1.

According to Regent Chair Jordan Acker (D), the new policy has been in the works since he was elected to the Board of Regents in 2018. Acker said the policy would aid in the University’s efforts to support victims of misconduct and prevent misconduct from occurring in the first place. 

“President Schlissel and the Board of Regents have been focused on making sure we improve our policies and procedures around sexual misconduct for as long as I’ve been on the Board,” Acker said. “This new policy and accompanying procedures will help us prevent sexual misconduct, but also protect survivors from unnecessary trauma. Although we have more work to do, this is a significant step forward and I want to commend all in the community who have worked to make this change happen.” 

The University has grappled with numerous instances of sexual misconduct in recent years, including the cases of late U-M athletic doctor Robert Anderson and former Provost Martin Philbert. Allegations of sexual misconduct against professors in the Computer Science and Engineering department have also recently surfaced, prompting further investigation into the department’s climate and culture.

University President Mark Schlissel said in a press release that the new policy reflects the University’s commitment to preventing sexual misconduct and supporting victims. The new policy is a result of feedback obtained from the University community, Schlissel said. 

“The Board of Regents, the university’s leadership team and I remain sharply focused on continually improving the ways in which we prevent prohibited conduct, support survivors in our community, and promptly investigate reports of misconduct,” Schlissel said. “This policy reflects important feedback from our entire community, including students, faculty, staff and alumni.”

The new policy also refers specifically to the Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office that was announced in July and replaced the controversial Office for Institutional Equity. ECRT handles the same allegations and cases that OIE did while providing more “support and prevention” measures, according to Schlissel. 

Tamiko Strickman, the former OIE director, currently serves as the executive director of the ECRT. Strickman has faced scrutiny over the past years for two lawsuits that were filed against her and officials at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for mishandling of sex discrimination and misconduct cases.

In an interview with The Daily earlier this month, Schlissel said he hopes the ECRT would be able to provide better support for the University community. 

“We took the Office of Institutional Equity apart and rebuilt a new organization (ECRT), covering the functions of the old OIE but in a different way — one that’s designed to provide better support, more outreach, better education and integrate prevention efforts along with our other investigatory efforts,” Schlissel said.   

Schlissel said the new policy, which was originally planned  to be implemented by July 2021, was delayed because of new sexual misconduct federal guidance from the Biden administration.

The policy creates two distinct categories for individuals with reporting obligations, giving them slightly different responsibilities.

The first category is individuals who have the ability to perform “corrective action,” including regents, executive officers, head coaches, executive officers, chancellors and deans. Individuals in this category are required to report any and all information they receive about prohibited conduct, regardless of how or when they received it.   

The second category includes assistant and associate deans, administrators, supervisors and faculty members who accompany students on University-related study abroad programs. Individuals who fall into this category are required to report instances of misconduct if they became aware of the misconduct as part of their work for the University.

The University will also expand the appeals process for employees who are found violating the sexual and gender-based misconduct policy. Under the new appeals process, corrective action — meaning action taken to fix unacceptable behavior — is still ineligible for appeal but can be disputed through the usual U-M grievance process. All appeals received will be reviewed and decided by an appointed third party. 

The University will also offer an adaptive resolution pilot program, facilitated by the Office of Student Conflict Resolution, from Oct. 2021 to June 2022. As part of this program, employees will focus on identifying the needs of the person making the complaint and give the recipient a chance to apologize and seek to repair any lasting damage. 

For students reporting misconduct procedures, the new policy includes the availability of University-appointed advisers throughout the investigative process — not just during the hearing process.  

The policy also includes a process for revocation of emeritus status — which allows for retired faculty and staff to retain honorary titles — for those who are found guilty of sexual misconduct or related offenses. It also prohibits retaliation against anyone who reports sexual misconduct. 

A working group to develop “a clearer policy explicitly prohibiting retaliation across the university community” will also be commissioned, according to the University Record. 

Schlissel and the Board of Regents will address the new policy at the regents meeting at 4 p.m. today at the U-M Golf Course. The event will be live streamed here.  

Daily Staff Reporters Dominic Coletti and George Weykamp can be reached at dcoletti@umich.edu and gweykamp@umich.edu.