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Members of the Faculty Senate Assembly continued their discussion at Monday’s meeting over the University of Michigan’s response to the large amounts of sexual misconduct reported in recent years, criticizing the newly updated Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office.
ECRT Executive Director Tamiko Strickman and Title IX Coordinator Elizabeth Seney attended the Senate Assembly meeting and discussed updates within their respective departments. In July 2021, the University restructured the Office of Institutional Equity into the Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX office.
Much of the non-executive session discussion was led by Seney, who talked about the i-Sight database management system recently implemented by the University, which documents and records instances of sexual and gender-based misconduct.
“Any forms of concerns, whether they’re sexual and gender-based misconduct or other forms of discrimination or harassment, are logged in that system,” Seney said. “One of the things they also do … is look at a number of pieces of information. Some of those have to do with reporting requirements that we have.”
The University has had multiple issues with sexual assault and predatory behavior on campus in the last few years. Survivors of former athletic doctor Robert Anderson have been camping outside of University President Mark Schlissel’s house since Oct. 8.
Engineering professors Jason Mars and Walter Lasecki have faced multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against them by former employees and students, Lasecki having resigned in August as a result. Former computer science engineering professor Peter Chen has been charged with criminal sexual misconduct and will stand trial in January.
Additionally, former Provost Martin Philbert resigned from his position last June following multiple allegations of sexual misconduct. Former SMTD professors Stephen Shipps and David Daniels faced criminal sex charges, with Shipps’ case involving a minor. Several former students of American Culture professor Bruce Conforth have also accused him of sexual misconduct.
The assembly then went into Executive Session where members were placed in break-out rooms to ask ECRT representatives specific questions.
Following the executive session, many assembly members, including Information Professor Cliff Lampe, expressed dissatisfaction at the lack of responses from ECRT within the breakout rooms.
“It was frustrating beyond belief to try to bring up serious issues about systemic failures that are really painting our entire University in a negative light without any accountability for those systematic failures,” Lampe said. “You can’t just change your name from Facebook to Meta and escape all of the consequences of your actions.”
In a previous interview with The Michigan Daily, Strickman said the changes that made OIE become ECRT will lead to more of a “soft outreach” to make the survivor more comfortable talking to ECRT.
Psychology Professor Luke Hyde said he felt ECRT couldn’t properly accommodate misconduct allegations because they reported directly to the University president.
“I think that’s a fundamental issue that if (ECRT) reports straight to the president or (the) provost, then isn’t their goal always going to be to protect the University?” Hyde said.
Information professor Kentaro Toyama said the very structure of ECRT lacked transparency.
“Everything that I have seen suggests that there is a concerted effort to not let any of us affect anything that’s happening within this black box,” Toyama said.
SACUA Chair Allen Liu ended the meeting by saying the Senate Assembly expects to invite ECRT, along with other groups, including victims, to meetings in the future.
The assembly also received updates from Nursing Dean Patricia Hurn about the Culture Change Values Identification Working Group as well as representatives from ECRT. The working group was created by the university to gather data through town halls and focus groups about shared values across the University.
Hurn is the co-chair of the group and outlined their current and future plans. The first phase of their plan has involved collecting value statements from each school of the University and visualizing similarities between them.
“Forming a strong organization with the kind of culture you want to be part of has to have very strong values,” Hurn said. “Those values may be extremely important to who we will be in the future.”
Several Senate Assembly members, including History professor Derek Peterson, expressed concerns with the use of value statements.
“(Historians) say that any effort to define culture as a unitary thing and to make a list of values is an exercise in power that masks inequality,” Peterson said. “That makes it seem as though a group is actually some consensual object that can be studied as if it existed.”
Philosophy Professor Sara L Ahbel-Rappe continued with this topic and questioned whether the values listed by the schools are being communicated properly.
“The word excellence can be a code word for exclusion,” Abhel-Rappe said.
Daily Staff Reporter Matthew Shanbom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.