The University of Michigan Central Student Government convened Tuesday evening in a hybrid format to hear from the Coordinated Community Response Team (CCRT) and Sexual Assault and Harassment Law Student Advocacy Services (SAHLAS). CSG also discussed a possible investigation into the Speaker of the CSG assembly.
Rebecca Veidlinger, intermittent law lecturer and one of three CCRT co-chairs, spoke at the Assembly about CCRT’s missions and actions. The CCRT was created as a result of a settlement in a class-action lawsuit filed against the University’s handling of the over 1,000 sexual misconduct allegations against former athletic doctor Robert Anderson.
Veidlinger explained that CCRT consists of members from all three University campuses and that the team is trying to bring in new voices from all walks of life instead of listening to people in positions of power.
“The goal is largely to examine, to learn and to experiment with new ways of prevention and response to the problem of campus sexual misconduct,” Veidlinger said. “It’s an attempt to bring some new voices to the table with more of a grassroots approach rather than top-down.”
Engineering junior Zaynab Elkolaly asked Veidlinger if there will be a focus on addressing inequities for people of Color and other marginalized groups when it comes to sexual harassment.
Veidlinger said CCRT is giving a voice to underrepresented groups better by hosting specific listening sessions for a wide range of groups, including students of Color, staff, faculty, the Graduate Employees’ Organization, survivors of sexual assault and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
“Our listening sessions have been targeted at different groups; we had some for staff, some for faculty,” Veidlinger said. “(With) GEO, we have a listening session upcoming, we have a listening session with survivors of sexual assault. We have one for LGBTQ+ students and one for students of Color.”
Law students Hannah Mezzacappa and Madison Butler also spoke at the Assembly about the Sexual Assault and Harassment Law Student Advocacy Service
(SAHLAS), a Law School student organization aiming to educate the University community about Title IX and advocate for changes in Title IX policy. The organization also supports complaints undergoing the Title IX process, and members were present at Tuesday’s CSG meeting to discuss how more students can get involved.
Title IX is a U.S. federal civil rights law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in any educational program receiving federal government funding.
Mezzacappa said the University also has its own rules on what constitutes as sexual misconduct that are based on Title IX but cover more situations.
“University of Michigan prohibits sexual assault, sex and gendervbased harassment, exploitation, stalking, intimate partner violence, sex and gendervbased discrimination and retaliation,” Mezzacappa said. “Title IX includes quid pro quo, hostile environments sexual harassment, intimate partner violence, sex and gender based stalking and sexual assault.”
Mezzacappa and Butler then discussed how victims of sexual harassment can report their case and receive assistance. The process consists of reporting, investigation, hearings, outcomes, sanctions, remedies, appeal and adaptive resolution. Reporting can be done confidentially, but Butler explained that the investigation process can be retraumatizing for survivors.
LSA sophomore Emma Sklar expressed her gratitude toward Mezzacappa and Butler for informing everyone about their right to be protected from sexual harassment.
“Even if you’re not affected by sexual assault personally, I’m confident in saying that everybody knows somebody who has been and so it’s really important to learn not only how to combat these issues on our own, but also refrain from being bystanders and instead being allies,” Sklar said.
The CSG Ethics Committee then motioned to investigate CSG Speaker Karthik Pasupula, an LSA junior, for a potential violation of the code of conduct and ethics. Assembly members expressed confusion about the vagueness of the investigation and urged the Ethics Committee to clarify what was being investigated.
LSA sophomore Olivia O’Connell said the Assembly could not make an impartial judgment on whether to investigate if they did not know the details of the investigation.
LSA sophomore Benjamin Thomas, vice chair of the Ethics Committee, responded saying that the complaint concerned Pasupula influencing CSG vice speaker Aarushi Ganguly, a Public Health junior, during a vote in the Oct. 4 CSG Assembly meeting.
“The complaint in specifics is that in the meeting on October 4, the speaker Karthik may have influenced the capacities of Aarushi as the vice speaker in telling her to raise her placard during a vote,” Thomas said.
The members of the ethics committee then clarified that the vote in question was related to extending time, and Ganguly motioned to allow the assembly to watch the video recording of the Oct. 4 meeting.
The assembly then conducted a vote by secret ballot to postpone the motion indefinitely and not initiate an investigation into Pasupula at this time.
Thomas expressed his regrets for not bringing enough evidence to the assembly and expressed that being vague at first was an attempt to protect the name of all parties involved in the investigation.
“I would like to express my deepest regrets that we, as the ethics committee, failed to bring substantial evidence to the assembly,” Thomas said. “We are operating on very vague guidelines ourselves, and it was our belief that by leaving out information we would be avoiding tarnishing the reputation of the parties involved. Obviously this was not the case, and it was not how it panned out. We are dedicated to improving ourselves in this manner.”
Daily News Reporter Joey Lin can be reached at email@example.com.
Daily Contributor Priya Shah contributed to the reporting of this article.