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Content warning: This article contains descriptions of sexual assault.
The University of Michigan Board of Regents met Thursday, their first time meeting after firing former University President Mark Schlissel for engaging in an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate. Schlissel’s firing came after the former president touted revisions to the supervisor relationship policy in response to sexual misconduct at the University.
University alum Isabelle Brourman, a survivor of sexual assault, criticized the University’s re-appointment of Interim President Mary Sue Coleman.
“Firing Schlissel is not enough,” Brourman said during public comments. “You fired one president for sexual misconduct and then hired another who was historically indifferent to it. Despite her comments today, Mary Sue Coleman has demonstrated that she is part of the problem.”
Brourman said Coleman and the University were aware of former Provost Martin Philbert’s previous sexual misconduct allegations when he was made dean of the School of Public Health.
In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Brourman said she filed a lawsuit against the University after her FOIA request — seeking information about investigations into accusations of sexual misconduct against Conforth done in 2008 and 2016 — was never acknowledged.
“(Brourman and other survivors) were curious about what (the University) knew about each (case of abuse) through the investigation because we never heard from them, and we still haven’t heard from the University,” Brourman said. “That’s the part that shocks me the most is that they could know that there was somebody out there that he abused when they looked into his University email and his computer who they decided not to reach out to.”
In addition to the lawsuit, Brourman said she is actively working to get representation from survivors of sexual assault on the Presidential Search Committee.
“We are hopeful that the University will take seriously what I asked for, which is to assign U-M survivors — unfortunately, there’s a ton that they could choose from — to help steer the Presidential Selection Committee,” Brourman said.
Brourman added that if the University extended the invitation to join the committee, she would accept.
“A huge part of why we’re doing what we’re doing is because we don’t trust the administration to protect (students),” Brourman said. “And God forbid, unfortunately, it’s becoming increasingly clear that if, God forbid, something were to happen to a student and they got raped, instead of being protected they’ll be perceived as a threat, to the school and its reputation, and that has to change.”
Harold Ford, an alum of both the University’s Ann Arbor and Flint campuses, said he was frustrated with the multiple sexual misconduct scandals within the University.
“You not only have a responsibility to enact policy,” Ford said. “But you must monitor and enforce it. The story should not end with a payoff and a policy. There are systemic reforms that you must attend to.”
Ford said the University should initiate action and remove the statue of Bo Schembechler and replace it with a statue of Jonathan Vaughn.
“You could start with something simple, however: take down the statue,” Ford said. “Penn State did the right thing when they took down the statue of (Joe Paterno) who enabled sexual predation. Do the right thing. Take that statue down. Put one up — this is my suggestion — of Jon Vaughn instead. Jon Vaughn is my hero. Not a successful coach that looked the other way.”
Samantha Rich contributed to the reporting of this article.
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