CSG discusses sexual misconduct umbrella policy, funding student organizations

Tuesday, November 5, 2019 - 11:16pm

Central Student Government hears from Erik Wessel about the task force for addressing sexual and gender-based misconduct on Tuesday evening.

Central Student Government hears from Erik Wessel about the task force for addressing sexual and gender-based misconduct on Tuesday evening. Buy this photo
Julia Schachinger/Daily

Central Student Government Assembly discussed the University’s sexual misconduct policy, funding for student organizations and the CSG calendar at their meeting Tuesday night. 

The Assembly began with a presentation led by Erik Wessel, director of the Office of Student Conflict resolution and member of a task force created by President Schlissel to work on the umbrella policy for sexual misconduct at the University. Wessel was joined by Patty Petrowski, University associate vice president and deputy general counsel, and University Title IX coordinator Elizabeth Seney. 

An external review of University sexual misconduct policies earlier this year resulted in recommendations to adopt an umbrella policy to address sexual misconduct broadly and to revise employee and student procedures. Following this, Schlissel created a task force to implement these recommendations. On Oct. 15, they released a draft of the policy and requested community feedback, which they will accept until Nov. 22. 

Wessel summarized the key provisions of the drafted policy, which defines prohibited conduct and responsible employees and expands confidential resources on campus. It also includes student procedures consistent with the interim student sexual misconduct policy, which has been in effect since January and remains under review. These procedures offer students the opportunity to resolve matters either through an investigative resolution, consisting of an investigation and hearing, or an adaptable resolution, a non-disciplinary approach that must be agreed on by both students and approved by the Title IX coordinator.

“One of the strengths of our policy as it’s currently written is that our policy doesn’t prescribe just one, singular pathway for resolution,” Wessel said. “What’s somewhat unique here at the University of Michigan that isn’t the case at many institutions across the country is that we have the opportunity to engage in an investigatory process. That is a very important and legitimate process to offer. We also have the opportunity to offer voluntary, adaptive resolution options as well, because we also know that the range of needs and the range of interests of students being expansive is also something we’re taking into consideration.”

After presenting the policy draft, Wessel called for feedback from CSG members. Some members of the Assembly expressed concern surrounding the cross-examination portion of the hearing. Wessel clarified the policy allows participants to choose to attend hearings from separate locations through video assisted technology, a method that has been chosen for 100 percent of cross-examinations thus far. He added if parties mutually agree, the cross-examination can occur in written form through the chat function of BlueJeans, a video conferencing platform. 

Patrowski also explained after the Doe v. Baum decision required the cross-examination component of the investigatory resolution, the University filed a petition for a rehearing. The petition sought to avoid direct confrontation between both parties by allowing the hearing officer to conduct the cross-examination. However, the petition was denied by the Sixth Circuit Court. 

Many members’ questions centered around students’ ability to select an adviser for support during the hearing process. These advisers are silent participants who can confer with students during breaks. Some students worried differences in access to legal counsel as advisers could create inequity in the investigative resolution. 

LSA sophomore Sujin Kim recommended the University provide access to legal counsel for all students in order to mitigate these concerns. 

“One thing I’ve heard from my constituents regarding this issue is that people would feel a lot more comfortable coming forward and saying something if there was some form… or some way that students could access legal representation, even if they personally can’t afford it,” Kim said. 

During the executive report, Ben Gerstein, CSG president and Public Policy junior, discussed CSG’s subsidization of 75 Group-X passes to increase access to Recreational Sports fitness classes. Gerstein said CSG has received many applications, but there are still some passes available. Applications will close Nov. 11. 

CSG then discussed a resolution to reimburse the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity for money previously authorized to fund the group’s travel and lodging at a national convention over the summer. Due to delayed submission of some of the information required to process reimbursement, CSG had not supplied this funding. The resolution to supply the funding passed. 

LSA sophomore Sam Braden put forth a resolution to allocate funding to support The Michigan Gayly, an LGBTQ+ student publication. Some members expressed concern over using legislative discretionary funds for a student organization, as funding for student organizations is usually provided through the Student Organization Funding Committee, a subcommittee within CSG to which student organizations apply for funding.

Rackham student Austin Glass felt the decision was outside the Assembly’s role. 

“When we think about whether organizations have a unique benefit on campus, or a good benefit on campus, or neutral, we’re making decisions that SOFC is equipped and empowered to make in this Assembly, which I think is an imbalance of authority, and is a way to try and circumvent SOFC’s role in this,” Glass said.  

Braden argued the Assembly should fund The Gayly because the assembly has the funding to do so and he said he believes it deserves the financial support. 

“I don’t think it’s problematic for the assembly to … give them money from the Assembly to publicize the event, to give it attention, to give it our support because of its unique aspects and throw our weight behind it simply because we are a separate entity which also can do this,” Braden said. 

The motion was referred back to the Finance, Communications, and Resolutions Committees. 

Members next discussed a proposed amendment to the CSG Constitution to align the CSG calendar with the calendar year. Glass explained the goal of this resolution is to improve summer productivity and encourage first-year involvement by changing the primary CSG elections from March to November. Some worried the November elections might be more intimidating for prospective members. The resolution was referred to the Rules Committee.