Courtesy of Matthew Shanbom.

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Discussion about the University of Michigan’s Title IX sexual and gender-based misconduct policies continued at Monday’s Senate Assembly meeting following a tumultuous Faculty Senate meeting last week, where the senate discussed and ultimately passed five motions related to the policies and COVID-19 protections. 

The assembly invited guest speakers from consulting firm Guidepost Solutions and the Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office to share information on the progress, implementation and education of the University’s policies.

Guidepost Solutions was hired by the University last year to “promote a safer, more equitable and inclusive campus environment and culture” and carry out recommendations made by law firm WilmerHale during the investigation into allegations against former Provost Martin Philbert.  Members of the assembly, including Nursing Professor Emerita Shaké Ketefian, were adamant in asking for an independent evaluation of progress in the area of sexual assault prevention.

“I would like for us to push for a report … on what (Guidepost has) done since the months they were engaged, and secondly what their plan is for the next six to eight months in terms of actual implementation,” Ketefian said.

Members of the assembly also discussed the need for greater transparency on the implementation of both current and future sexual misconduct policies. Information Professor Cliff Lampe said transparency is necessary in order to build trust in the community.

“(Policy implementation) has to be a transparent process because I think trust in the administration to police themselves is pretty low,” Lampe said. “(Victims) see ECRT as just a rebranded version of OIE (Office of Institutional Equity) with absolutely zero agency or ability to change the status quo.” 

Tamiko Strickman, ECRT associate vice president for institutional equity, also shared a plan with the assembly to create a website that lays out the policies that have been enacted by the University.

“We’re working with Michigan creative to really streamline (the OIE) website and make it much more user friendly as well,” Strickman said.

Bradley Dizik, senior managing director at Guidepost Solutions, also told the assembly that the firm is working with the University to create another website that lists all the policies that have been enacted since Guidepost was hired. The website will also include the University’s status in implementing them. Dizik said 98% of the policies proposed by Guidepost have already been accepted by the University.

“It’s not just about implementation, it’s also about execution,” Dizik said. “Just because you implement and put in a policy, does not mean that you’re effectively executing on that policy.”

Dizik said the biggest reason universities fail to implement similar sexual misconduct policies is due to a lack of feedback from communities the policies affect, such as students and faculty members. 

Engineering Professor Michael Atzmon said he was frustrated that the policies do not mention previous incidents of sexual abuse, including the 2018 case involving former Music, Theatre & Dance Professor David Daniels.

“Nobody has been held accountable for past abuses,” Atzmon said. “We don’t hear anything about action steps taken to prevent those abuses. We have every reason to assume there is ongoing abuse.”

Strickman spoke about ECRT restructuring and the role of the Prevention, Education Assistance and Resources Office, which was created alongside ECRT in July to provide education and training.

Strickman also outlined the process for contacting ECRT with concerns of possible misconduct. The process starts with equity specialists who are the first point of contact and a “softer outreach to talk to individuals about their resource options and their reporting options,” according to Strickman. Additionally, Strickman said that the equity specialists are responsible for initiating the process, and then the deputy of outcomes ensures academic units follow through on the proposed changes.

Senate Assembly members said they plan to continue the discussion on sexual misconduct and Title IX violations in the coming months, with hopes of bringing back Strickman and Guidepost to provide updates.

Information professor Kentaro Toyama emphasized that the University has to be transparent about the recommendations they received from Guidepost and how they will be implemented.

“One of the things that’s really difficult in this particular phase, is for the next year (the University) is going to say, ‘Oh we’re working on these things,’ and we (the assembly) just have no idea,” Toyama said.

Daily News Contributor Matthew Shanbom can be reached at shanbom@umich.edu.