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On Thursday, the University of Michigan’s Board of Regents presented an overhaul of the University’s sexual misconduct policies and heard public comments from sexual abuse survivors as well as students and faculty pushing for changes to the recently expanded University of Michigan-Flint and Dearborn Go Blue Guarantee.
All Regents except Regent Katherine White (D) were present. The meeting, held virtually over Zoom, is expected to be the board’s final gathering in an online format after having conducted their business via live streams on Zoom since the pandemic began in March 2020. University President Mark Schlissel said the board’s upcoming meeting will once again be held in-person at the U-M Richard L. Postma Family Clubhouse in Ann Arbor.
Schlissel announced several changes to reform the current culture around sexual misconduct on campus.
These changes include the creation of the Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office (ECRT) that would replace the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) and place a greater emphasis on supporting prevention and reporting efforts.
Tamiko Strickman, current OIE executive director, was appointed as the Executive Director of ECRT. Two lawsuits have been filed against Strickman and other officials at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln alleging they mishandled investigations into sex discrimination and sexual misconduct. In an interview with The Michigan Daily Thursday, Schlissel said he’s taken a look at the lawsuits alleging Strickman’s wrongdoing and he believes Strickman “will be cleared of wrongdoing.”
Strickman said she is excited to begin working with the ECRT and that one of her priorities is ensuring those reporting abuse “really feel comfortable reaching out to us as a resource and feeling comfortable throughout the process.”
Administrators also announced several other revisions that aim to institute a cultural shift at the University by reinforcing misconduct prevention and reporting efforts. The changes include a ban on supervisors starting intimate relationships with those they supervise, clarified policies to protect those reporting misconduct from retaliation, increased scrutiny on faculty and staff being hired or promoted and a streamlined misconduct reporting process.
Regent Denise Ilitch said that these policy revisions begin to address the reoccurring issues of misconduct.
“For an organization to truly change, all aspects of structure, policy and culture must be addressed,” Ilitch said. “Today’s actions begin us on a path to correct this problem and establish a speak-up culture where people have trust and confidence in our systems to report sexual and gender-based misconduct.”
The changes come after reports of multiple high-level University officials and administrators, including Dr. Robert Anderson and former Provost Martin Philbert, abusing their positions at the University to commit sexual misconduct.
Regent Jordan Acker (D), in his first meeting as chair of the board, said the policy revisions would make the University a safer place for all.
“Today we continue the process of holding the University of Michigan accountable for harms that happened on our campus,” Acker said. “We will get this right, so it never happens again on our campus.”
Provost Susan Collins provided an update on planning for the fall semester and said the administration and registrar were working to increase the number of in-person course offerings for students, especially within introductory classes.
Collins highlighted that all economics courses, including ECON 101 and 102, will offer in-person instruction, and several courses that were scheduled as remote are being offered in-person now. Introductory economics classes typically contain hundreds of students. Collins said the status of courses will be finalized in early August and that she’s eager to offer in-person experiences to first and second-year students.
Several former athletes and students who received services at University Health Service (UHS) provided public comments to detail the sexual abuse they suffered by Anderson. U-M alum Tad DeLuca, who has been an outspoken survivor in the Anderson case, accused the University of being complicit in the doctor’s abuse. DeLuca urged the board to hold itself accountable by cooperating with Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel to make the University’s role in retaining Anderson transparent.
“A significant part of the healing process is that survivors know the full story,” DeLuca said. “The healing will not be complete until everything is uncovered.”
Acker thanked DeLuca for coming forward and referred to the announced policy revisions enhancing misconduct prevention and support for survivors. He noted other members of the board wanted to say more but ongoing legal processes within court limited what they were able to say.
“What I can and will say is that we are committed to making sure that we are a campus free from sexual violence, abuse and harassment,” Acker said. “We must do better, and we thank you again for sharing your truth with us today.”
Multiple speakers also discussed the expansion of the Go Blue Guarantee free tuition program to the University of Michigan-Flint and Dearborn campuses. The program at the satellite campuses requires that students have a 3.5 GPA in order to be eligible for the aid.
In an email to The Daily last month, U-M spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald said the 3.5 GPA requirement is in place at University of Michigan-Flint and Dearborn because students entering Ann Arbor already have a GPA that is 3.5 or higher. Schlissel repeated this on Thursday, noting that Ann Arbor students receiving free tuition through the program meet the same requirement with an average GPA of 3.82.
Jacob Lederman, a faculty member at University of Michigan-Flint and member of the One University Coalition (1U), credited the board for offering the program at the satellite campuses but said the GPA requirement undermines its support.
Lederman said 1U’s conservative estimate indicates around 70% of incoming students that are eligible for free tuition based on their income would not qualify for the program because of the GPA requirements.
“Flint and Dearborn students work longer hours, attend secondary schools that are more likely to be struggling and often come from families facing layered challenges,” Lederman said. “If you care about equity and access, which I know many of you do, I urge you to rethink this requirement.”
Daily Staff Reporters Scarlett Bickerton and Arjun Thakkar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.