CSG debates University sexual misconduct policy, changing Assembly weekly meeting

Tuesday, March 12, 2019 - 11:13pm

Law student Alex Ault talks about his election experience as he bids for the Central Student Government special prosecutor position at the Michigan League Tuesday evening.

Law student Alex Ault talks about his election experience as he bids for the Central Student Government special prosecutor position at the Michigan League Tuesday evening. Buy this photo
Michael Bagazinski/Daily

The University of Michigan Central Student Government met Tuesday night to discuss a resolution to recommend revising the current University sexual misconduct policy and debated changing their weekly meeting time.

LSA freshman Emma Sandberg and LSA sophomore Josiah Walker proposed a resolution to the Student Assembly regarding the revision of the University’s sexual misconduct policy. In their presentation of the resolution, Sandberg and Walker explained the recent changes to the policy in which a cross-examination is now required in sexual misconduct cases. They said this change may cause emotional trauma to the survivor, as the survivor will be required to be directly questioned by the alleged perpetrator in the examination.

In September, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the University must change its sexual misconduct policy to give the student who is accused of sexual assault the chance to cross-examine the accuser. The University’s previous policy did not require a cross-examination or an in-person hearing, and the policy was revised to include these aspects in October.

Following the ruling, the new student group Jane Roe created a petition asking the University to adjust the policy to have the cross-examination conducted by an advisor instead of the alleged perpetrator. As of March 12, the petition had 64,824 signatures.

Jane Roe continued their efforts to change the policy by meeting with a sexual misconduct case manager, according to Walker.

“We then met with a sexual misconduct case manager in the Office of Student Conflict Resolution,” Walker said. “In this meeting, we inquired about why this policy was implemented, whether students were notified about and given a chance to critique the policy and whether the University have plans to revise the policy, especially its cross-examination model. Similar to other exchanges with administrators, this conversation followed a pattern.”

Walker further said the administrators told them the University did not want to turn an administrative process into a court-like proceeding and feared not all students would be represented by counsel. According to Walker, proposed Title IX regulations require institutions to provide an adviser for the duration of cross-examination.

Walker said Jane Roe insisted the University include student input by forming an advisory board to revise the policy and to allow students to provide feedback, as well as to notify students about the policy change.

“Although the University fulfilled our secondary request, the cross-examination model has not yet been revised,” Walker said. “As long as this policy stands, it will be applied to every single student case of sexual assault at the University of Michigan. This is likely to have a devastating impact on survivors and on our campus safety.”

Sandberg agreed with Walker and said the policy did not ensure student safety at the University.

“Enforcing this policy is a gross deviation from the University’s responsibility to protect its students,” Sandberg said. “This form of cross-examination is unnecessary, and I personally consider it to be cruel.”

Sandberg called the cross-examination model inhumane and said the University’s investigative process will have consequences for both those who go through with the process or those who decide against it.

“The University of Michigan has argued that those who decided on this cross-examination model have the best interest of survivors of sexual assault in mind,” Sandberg said. “To rephrase, the University actually believes that survivors of sexual assault would find it less traumatic to be grilled by their rapist or assaulter than by a third party. I can’t speak for all survivors of sexual assault, but I believe I can speak for the vast majority when I say that being questioned by one’s perpetrator would be significantly more traumatic than by any attorney.”

LSA freshman Sam Braden questioned the equality of the policy. He discussed the possible inequity present if one of the parties can afford a more expensive lawyer and asked about how the University assigns a defense attorney to students.

“I know we say the whole court system is very equal, but people who can afford better lawyers are more likely going to win a case,” Braden said.

CSG Speaker Austin Glass, Rackham student, said although he understands equity concerns regarding the policy, clinical studies have shown a third party agent should conduct a cross-examination. He said administrators have not found the need to include student voices in the creation of the policy.

“I recognize your equity concerns, but at the end of the day, the current system is almost unbelievable,” Glass said. “To a passive observer, I think the attempt here is to address the fact that the system is one which, in discussion with administrators, the student office on this hasn’t found any significant desire to make change to.”

The Assembly referred the resolution to the Resolutions and Communications committees.

Additionally, CSG members confirmed Law student Alex Ault as a special prosecutor. Law student Thaddaeus Gregory encouraged the confirmation. He said Ault has a stellar resume and has a lot of prior experience.

“A reason why we’re nominating him for special prosecutor is because while being incredibly intelligent about elections, he also has the amazing mind of a litigator,” Gregory said. “When he gets into court, he’s something amazing to people, he’s just a force.”

Ault said he plans to pursue election law in the future and is excited to serve on CSG as a special prosecutor.

“I was lucky enough to fill this role back in the fall and I think that having a fair and impartial arbiter to oversee elections is always an important thing,” Ault said. “I think this role is a cool and unique opportunity that I value, and I’ll make the time for it.”

The Assembly also debated changing the day and time of weekly Assembly meetings. Currently, the Assembly meets at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday evenings. The resolution proposed changing the meeting to begin at 4 p.m. on Sunday afternoons.

CSG Treasurer Nicco Beltramo, LSA senior, proposed the resolution. CSG Assembly meetings often go late into the night and have lasted past 1 a.m. as a result of their current evening start time. Beltramo also brought up safety concerns with getting home late at night as well as having the meetings on a weekday.

Assembly members had mixed responses to the resolution. Some believed the time would interfere with other student organizations and made it less convenient for members to attend meetings. Moving the meeting to Sundays would also cause the Assembly to lose additional meetings — the exact number of meetings lost was debated to be between two to five. Engineering junior Zeke Majeske suggested a meeting time of 6 p.m. on Wednesday evenings.

After discussion, the representatives voted to not adopt the resolution.