By Will Greenberg, Daily News Editor
Published April 13, 2014
Two months after its formation, a special Central Student Government task force has issued its findings and recommendations in regards to the University’s handling of former Michigan football kicker Brendan Gibbons’ sexual misconduct case.
Led by CSG Vice President Bobby Dishell, a Public Policy junior and CSG president-elect, the task force investigated the Office of Student Conflict Resolution’s handling of the case. OSCR is responsible for facilitating disciplinary proceedings against students.
Shortly after The Michigan Daily reported the permanent separation of Gibbons from the University, CSG formed a task force to examine the University’s relatively new Student Sexual Misconduct Policy and review its handling of the Gibbons case. According to documents reviewed by the Daily, the violation of the Student Sexual Misconduct Policy stemmed from an incident reported to have occurred Nov. 22, 2009.
Dishell said the task force will meet Wednesday with the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights officials conducting the federal investigation to discuss its findings. He said the investigators requested a meeting in late March.
The task force found that the University “failed to explain the four-year delay between Brendan Gibbons’ conduct and the permanent separation,” that it “failed to investigate third-party complaints of Gibbons’ conduct within sixty days of receiving the complaint,” and that they believe “Brady Hoke knowingly issued false statements in December 2013 concerning the status of Gibbons.”
The findings cite an August 2013 phone call complaint to the University’s Title IX coordinator regarding Gibbons’ 2009 sexual misconduct as the sole complaint submitted on the subject. Gibbons was not found responsible until Nov. 20, 2013, beyond the usual 60-day deadline for beginning a sexual misconduct investigation.
The findings also note a 2012-2013 OSCR Annual Report stating that one instance of sexual misconduct filed from that year remained “Unresolved: investigation in process.” The task force could not confirm that this complaint was in reference to the Gibbons case but, if so, it would mean that more than a year passed before the University completed its investigation.
Additionally, the task force found that OSCR and OIE were unable to handle all the reports of sexual misconduct by the beginning of the 2012-2013 academic year. The University acknowledged that it needed more staff to handle all the complaints. The report also read that according to the OSCR director, the OIE often was often unable to investigate complaints within the 60-day deadline. The University didn’t hire a second investigator until 2014, far too long after acknowledging the problem of poor staff, the report stated.
CSG President Michael Proppe, a Business senior, said this was more indicative of a broader problem of how the University deals with sexual misconduct cases and less likely an instance of an athlete being given special privileges to keep them eligible for play.
“The University was regularly missing the 60-day deadline to investigate sexual misconduct and that delay could have undermined the confidence that survivors had in the process and may have kept people from coming forward,” Proppe said.
The task force also determined that OSCR did not properly apply the Statement of Students Rights and Responsibilities — stating that the University “improperly prohibited student conduct retroactively,” using the interim sexual misconduct policy or finalized but not the pre-2011 policy that would have been in effect when Gibbons’ offenses occurred. The findings note that the differences in the new and old policies are fairly small and unlikely to change the OIE findings but wanted to make it clear the University could not retroactively apply new policies on old cases.
In a statement, University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the University applauds CSG’s investigation, as it shows the importance of the Student Sexual Misconduct Policy.
“We appreciate that Central Student Government takes the issue of sexual misconduct seriously, as do we,” Fitzgerald wrote in the statement. “We hope the CSG’s focus on these issues will lead to a greater awareness of the student sexual misconduct policy and even more survivors coming forward.”
Additionally, the task force could only determine that either OIE or OSCR did not properly communicate with the Athletic Department, the Athletic Department did not communicate with the coaches or else Hoke did indeed issue a false statement; they were not able to confirm one of these scenarios specifically.
However, the report notes that representatives from the Athletic Department do not believe the OIE failed to notify the department of a student-athlete being accused of sexual misconduct and it is the practice of the Associate Athletic Director to notify the head coach of the team of the player in question. When Michigan coach Brady Hoke said Gibbons would not play in the 2013 Buffalo Wild Wings game in December, Hoke said it was because of a “family matter.”
The task force report lists Proppe’s recommendations, including that the University’s Board of Regents and other administrators work to involve students in such policy matters. Also, it recommends that OSCR reviews all sexual misconduct cases occurring before the interim policy but under the proper policy applicable at the time of the offense and that OSCR files a report once they complete this review.
Proppe also recommended more clear and published policies be developed in regard to student-athlete disciplinary information sharing between departments, as well as creating more straightforward policies with the Ann Arbor Police Department, the University Police Department, OSCR and OIE regarding sharing of student conduct information.