SACUA raises concerns with sexual misconduct policies for faculty

SACUA Chair Silke-Maria Weineck discusses the effectiveness of the administration's reactions to recent Diag chalkings in the Fleming Building on Monday.

SACUA Chair Silke-Maria Weineck discusses the effectiveness of the administration's reactions to recent Diag chalkings in the Fleming Building on Monday. Buy this photo
Kristina Perkins/ Daily

 

Monday, April 11, 2016 - 6:40pm

The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs heard remarks from University of Michigan Provost Martha Pollack and University Enrollment Manager Kedra Ishop during their meeting Monday.

After hearing updates from Pollack on the progress of searches for several dean positions, SACUA asked questions of Pollack about the Standards Practice Guide. The SPG is a set of policies and procedures that apply to all University staff and faculty. The Office of Institutional Equity oversees these policies and sanctions.

Within the SPG, SACUA has been discussing over the past year the current grievance policy determines by OIE in the case of sexual harassment charges against faculty. At a February meeting, SACUA Chair Silke-Maria Weineck, prof. of comparative literature, said the grievance policy is currently unclear and requires clarification.

During Monday's meeting, Weineck emphasized that the current policy is overly vague and makes it easy for faculty to be accused of not following the policies.

“We’re worried because you could argue that any behavior could violate the SPG,” Weineck said.

In its meeting last month, SACUA compared faculty policies on sexual misconduct to the newly released updated sexual misconduct policy for students, which allows students to file grievances on findings of sexual misconduct. Under current policies, University faculty may file grievances against sanctions but not against findings on cases of misconduct.

Pollack declined to discuss SACUA’s requests at the meeting and did not comment on the vagueness of the guide, though she noted she was open to conversation in the future. Pollack also said the University wanted to see the student policy roll out before considering a change to the current faculty process. In September, Pollack said several changes had been made to how grievances function for faculty — including a second step in the process and a standardized e-mail template — in response to a SACUA request.

“There's too many moving parts,” Pollack said. “I want to see student policy put in place, and then I am willing to entertain consideration of what we might do for faculty. But I have not had time to entertain and consider what we could do with faculty.”

Pollack added that faculty sexual harassment policies are much more complex than student policies.

“You can’t just cut and paste because student issues usually don't have a power imbalance for the most part,” Pollack said. “Technically, faculty are employees so there are a whole bunch of different laws.”

In a recent interview with The Michigan Daily, Pollack said Weineck and SACUA were aware the University intended to focus on student sexual misconduct policies before revising policies for faculty and other employees.

“I have said to SACUA all along — and Silke knows this, she's on board with this — that we were updating the student sexual misconduct policy, and when that was done, we would revisit the appealing processes for faculty,” she said.

During the interview, Pollack declined to discuss what processes for amending current policies for faculty and staff would entail.

SACUA also raised questions about a possible social media policy for faculty during their conversation with Pollack. The University does not currently have a social media policy for faculty to follow.

Pollack said she would consider the idea, though she noted many issues stemming from social media could apply to other policies.

“You could imagine cases that could fall under other policies,” Pollack said. “For example, if you were threatening a student directly, that would fall under another category.”

John Lehmanm SACUA member and Professor of Biology, said governing OIE and SPG go hand-in-hand and said administration should address the issues together.

“There’s going to have to be some dovetailing of SPG and OIE discussions,” Lehman said.

The committee also addressed recent anti-Islam chalkings on the Diag which University President Mark Schlissel and Central Student Government President Cooper Charlton responded to in a University-wide e-mail last week.

“You have to respect free speech no matter how heinous, and also be respectful of the fact some students feel very, very hurt,” Pollack said.

Ishop, SACUA's other guest, the enrollment manager at the University answered questions largely about admissions, as well explained how faculty is involved in admissions. She also addressed financial aid, diversity on campus and how each of the schools differ in admissions processes.

“The faculty engagement is done at a committee level about helping us make decisions about students we admit,” Ishop said.

During her remarks, Ishop highlighted how the University has increased its yield over the last year — meaning a higher number of the students accepted are committing to the University.

“What you would have seen prior to the last couple years was a little bit of a decline,” Ishop said. “What we’ve seen in the last two years is a steady uptake.”