Heatlie steps down as Title IX coordinator amid OIE criticism, legal action

Sunday, October 21, 2018 - 11:30pm

After more than 12 years with the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor’s Office of Institutional Equity, Pamela Heatlie stepped down as Title IX coordinator last week.

University spokespeople confirmed Jeffery Frumkin — who previously served as the interim head of OIE before Heatlie — will take up the role of associate vice provost for academic and faculty affairs, senior director for institutional equity and Title IX coordinator. Heatlie, meanwhile, has moved to U-M Dearborn’s equivalent office a little over a year after her promotion last April.

The University previously announced changes in leadership at OIE — the office responsible for investigating sexual misconduct reports, Title IX violations and institutional bias, among other duties — with official press releases. This move, however, was accompanied by no such headlines. The Daily was first notified of Heatlie’s replacement when a comment request on sexual misconduct proceedings was directed to Frumkin last week. University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald later provided a copy of an email announcement sent internally to Human Resources staff.

Jeff was appointed by Laurita Thomas, associate vice president for human resources, and Robert Sellers, vice provost for equity and inclusion and chief diversity officer. OIE reports jointly to these two senior leaders,”  Fitzgerald wrote in an email statement. “Jeff is very familiar with the OIE office and its processes given his role in academic HR.”

When Frumkin last took up the role in 2016, the University press release announcing his position outlined an advisory committee tasked with finding a permanent head. This time, Fitzgerald offered the “search for a permanent replacement will launch soon.”

Title IX coordinators wield considerable power on campus, making the ultimate call on whether students will be found guilty of misconduct.    

Heatlie’s tenure was marked by intense scrutiny on the University’s sexual misconduct investigation process. She was named as a defendant in the lawsuit filed by a former University student expelled for sexual assault who alleged the OIE process did not provide him with due process rights. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled against the University at the end of September, mandating accused students have the right to cross-examine their accuser in University-adjudicated sexual assault cases. University President Mark Schlissel told The Daily last month the University will not contest that students accused of Title IX violations must be provided with the opportunity for a live hearing and cross-examination.   

OIE also weathered public criticism in the last year for handling bias cases, with some faculty criticizing Heatlie for not acting as an impartial investigator in certain cases. At a faculty governance meeting last month, Sami Malek, professor of Internal Medicine, alleged many were unhappy with the state of operations within OIE.

“This is very important that we have somebody looking at it,” Malek said. “There’s a lot of disappointed people in the process.”

While Frumkin leads OIE, Sascha Matish, associate director of Academic Human Resources, will assume his responsibilities overseeing AHR as interim director of that office.

Correction appended: The lede and headline of this article have been changed to better reflect the circumstances of Heatlie's change in position.