U-M Senate Assembly talks new sexual misconduct policy

Monday, November 18, 2019 - 6:46pm

The University's Faculty Senate Assembly discussed the new sexual misconduct policy in Hutchins Hall Monday.

The University's Faculty Senate Assembly discussed the new sexual misconduct policy in Hutchins Hall Monday. Buy this photo
Alec Cohen/Daily

The University of Michigan Faculty Senate Assembly met Monday to discuss and vote to implement the new umbrella sexual misconduct policy. However, because they didn’t have a quorum, they were unable to vote on any of the issues. Instead, the Senate Assembly and Faculty attending the meeting discussed questions regarding the policy.

In response to a third-party review of past sexual misconduct procedures, the new policy would apply to the Dearborn, Flint and Ann Arbor campuses of the University. Sascha Matish, associate vice provost and senior director of Academic Human Resources, mentioned the new document is very similar to existing policies regarding sexual misconduct at the University. 

“They largely codify what we already have in place,” Matish said. “It’s putting basically our policies and procedures that existed in a large number of places into one policy into the two procedures, the employee procedures, as well as the student procedures.”

The new policy redefines prohibited conduct, which now includes sexual assault, sexual exploitation, sexual harassment, gender-based harassment, sexual and/or gender-based stalking, intimate partner violence, sex and gender-based discrimination, retaliation and violation of protective measures. 

Several faculty members asked questions regarding the differences, inconsistencies and overlap between faculty and employees within the policy. A few staff comments targeted how this new umbrella is a consolidation of existing policies. LSA professor Marjorie Levinson focused on how the new umbrella policy could be an opportunity to innovate and create more fair practices. 

“Why did you undertake so modest of a task as to simply codify the existing practice  when we’re all aware of the need for implementing a much more sensitive and fair-minded practices is widely felt?” Levinson asked.

In an attempt to comply with a ruling from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that requires students on both sides of a sexual misconduct policy to cross-examine each other while still protecting students from emotional hardship, Prof. Barry Belmont, the chairperson of the Committee on Civil Rights and Liberties, proposed a resolution to have third parties speak for students during cross-examination. 

“(We’d like) to have cross-examination but not to have it by a respondent directly questioning a complainant,” Belmont said. “But by having an advisor acting on either behalf or some representative hearing officer to serve in that cross-examination.”

The Senate Assembly voted in favor of the resolution, but because they didn’t have a quorum the vote was invalid.