Dominick Sokotoff/Daily. Buy this photo.

The University Insider is The Daily’s first faculty and staff-oriented newsletter. This weekly newsletter will give U-M faculty and staff the ability to see the most important issues on campus and in Ann Arbor — particularly those related to administrative decisions — from the perspective of an independent news organization. It will also provide a better understanding of student perspectives.

Success! You're on the list.

The LSA Student Government introduced a new Sexual Misconduct Response and Prevention Task Force (SMRP) at their Jan. 12 meeting to address sexual misconduct on campus. The task force was created to increase student involvement in sexual misconduct policy decisions within student government and at the University-level.

The task force interest form is currently open to all University of Michigan students, including those outside of LSA, in hopes of representing diverse perspectives on campus. Meetings are scheduled to begin next week. One of SMRP’s main goals is to collaborate with other student organizations to address the issue of sexual misconduct at the University

Tyler Watt, LSA senior and LSA SG president, said the task force came out of a combination of advocacy from new and experienced members of LSA SG.

“The SMRP largely came from the advocacy of both new and experienced members of LSA SG,” he said. “It combined old members’ knowledge of our university, its policies and the longtime problems that have harmed studies with new members’ experiences and ideas for what a better environment can and should be for the students.”

Watt said the task force will create a space for students to work together to impact the University’s sexual misconduct policies and practices.

“There is now a space for students to work together to directly impact the administrations’ policies and practices related to sexual misconduct,” he said. “ SMRP will work with a variety of other spaces on campus (student organizations) to achieve its aims, and it will have continued accountability to the elected representatives on LSA SG as it refines its aim and work.”

The task force comes after hundreds of sexual abuse allegations against the late doctor Robert Anderson came to light at the University. Jonathan Vaughn, a former Michigan football player and an Anderson survivor, has been camped outside of former University President Mark Schlissel’s house for over 100 days to protest the University’s response to the allegations. Vaughn is running for a seat on the Board of Regents in 2022.

“I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: President Schlissel is a puppet, and the puppet masters are the Board of Regents,” Vaughn said upon announcing his Regent campaign in November. “Far too long now, 50 some odd years, this culture of rape, sexual abuse and cover-up has become a syndicate.”

The Board of Regents also recently fired former University President Mark Schlissel from his position on account of an inappropriate relationship he had with a subordinate. Schlissel’s actions violated the University’s supervisor relationship policy — which he implemented in July 2021.

LSA junior Abigail Nighswonger, an elected representative in LSA SG, said community frustrations with the University’s response to sexual assault allegations contributed to the decision to create the task force. Nighswonger also noted other instances of sexual misconduct from Unviersity administation, including former Provost Martin Philbert, who removed from the position in January 2020

“I think (sexual misconduct) is overly normalized,” Nighswonger said. “It’s absolutely insane to me that it isn’t just absolutely shocking. With the Martin Philbert situation that went down, in addition to the Anderson survivors and all the work that they’ve done, it became clear that a lot of the work that’s been done on campus is closely connected to admin, and admin doesn’t really want to see any substantive change.”

LSA junior Gaurie Gunasekaran, an LSA SG elected representative who also played a key role in the formation of the task force, said the task force will help bring together a community of students who want to talk about and address sexual misconduct on campus.

“It’s not a one man against the University or against a policy fight,” Gunasekaran said. “We’re trying to create a community that not only helps look at policies the University is proposing, but also helps form support groups and is a safe space for collaboration and talking about this issue.”

Gunasekaran said the task force will also seek to support underrepresented minority identities in conversations involving sexual misconduct and help amplify the voices of minority groups on campus. 

International students, in particular, are one academic minority group at the University whom Gunaskeran said may not be familiar with the reporting process. SMRP would want to help make resources about reporting sexual misconduct easily accessible to everyone, according to Gunaskeran.

“Currently, there isn’t enough representation (in administrative discussions about sexual misconduct) for transgender students, non-binary students or international students,” Gunasekaran said. “The judicial process here (is) so wordy. It’s so lengthy. It’s so confusing. That is something we’re trying to minimize and make accessible to students of all different backgrounds because we don’t want that to be the thing that prevents them from having their voices heard.”

Gunasekaran said student government organizations are unique in that they have consistent access to financial support, and she wants to use part of the LSA SG budget to support initiatives combating sexual misconduct across campus. 

“Since we are a part of student government, we get financial support,” Gunasekaran said. “A major thing that hinders a lot of activism is money. If student organizations have different initiatives, projects and events that they want to run, there is a good possibility that we can fund that through collaboration.” 

Daily Staff Reporter Sarah Williams can be reached at