Chants heard across the Diag on Tuesday afternoon demonstrated that some students are “fed up” with the University.

The Student Union of Michigan hosted a protest to voice concerns about the administration’s handling of sexual misconduct cases on campus. About 30 students and members of the community marched from Rackham Auditorium to the Fleming Administration Building, chanting and distributing pamphlets to onlookers.

Students from the group delivered speeches at both Rackham and Fleming, which outlined the group’s concerns and suggested changes that could be made to administrative policies. While several issues were addressed, the majority of the protest revolved around the administration’s lack of effort to improve campus climate, which members of SUM said promotes “rape culture” and “victim blaming,” while protecting the personal financial interests of administrators.

Although several references were made to the recent controversy surrounding former kicker Brendan Gibbons’ permanent separation from the University, Rackham student Laura Herbert said the group supports the survivor’s right to privacy and the University’s decision to keep certain information about the case private.

“We’re hearing the same line of rhetoric,” Herbert said. “They’re telling us that because they can’t divulge private matters to us as a student body, they can’t do anything about the rape culture on campus. That’s not true.”

Herbert said the administration has many opportunities to improve campus climate within the constraints of laws regarding the privacy of sexual assault victims. In particular, she called for public forums where students can speak about their concerns and a mandate for University athletic staff to receive training on how to handle cases of sexual misconduct involving students.

Following a mandate from the Department of Education in 2011, the University reformed its sexual misconduct policy to comply with new federal regulations. Herbert said this demonstrated that the University was only willing to change its policy under threat of financial penalty.

She added that students might not understand why the policy changed and suggested the administration could do more to educate students about the nature of the new policy.

“These are real changes we could make to make our community safer,” Herbert said.

The Student Union questioned Michigan coach Brady Hoke’s involvement in the events surrounding Gibbons separation from the University. SUM alleged Hoke knew about the permanent separation, but created an alibi when asked about Gibbons’ status at a Dec. 23 press conference prior to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

“We do not know how Brady Hoke possibly could have not known about the separation before he called the expulsion a ‘family matter,’” SUM wrote in a statement. “We find the injury story suspicious.”

University president Mary Sue Coleman released a statement on Jan. 30 stating that the athletic department “has no influence over sexual misconduct investigations or the academic standing of student athletes.”

At a Wednesday press conference, Hoke said he could not discuss the matter and had not been made aware of the student protest. Similarly to past comments by the University, Hoke said federal privacy laws preventing him from discussing the topic.

“Like I said before, I … can’t say anything,” Hoke said. “You know, I don’t like that, but I can’t.”

Business junior Sumana Palle, who delivered the closing remarks at Fleming, said she believes administrators at the University placed greater value on financial factors than the safety of students on campus.

“There’s no way to right this wrong, something has already happened and there’s no way to right that,” Palle said. “But there’s a way of moving forward in a way that’s productive for everyone and they’re not willing to do that, because that means they have to be uncomfortable with their previous actions.”

On Tuesday, The Detroit News reported that the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights will begin an investigation into the University’s handling of the Gibbons case. The OCR stated that they are following up on two specific complaints received from former Pathology Prof. Doug Smith and another unknown individual, but that the investigation does not necessarily reflect on the validity of the complaint.

However, Palle said she believes the investigation reflects on the University’s failure to respond to the sexual assault allegations in an appropriate manner.

“I think it reflects lack of accountability, transparency and responsibility,” Palle said.

In her monthly fireside chat on Monday, Coleman said she supports the University’s current sexual misconduct policy.

“I am very comfortable with the process and what happened,” Coleman said. “We have pretty well-defined procedures that we use.”

University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the University supports SUM’s right to protest and draw attention to important issues for students on campus. He added that student organizations and resources such as the Sexual Assault and Prevention Awareness Center were founded in response to similar student movements.

“Students drawing attention to sexual misconduct issues is a good thing,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s really important that students continue to bring these important issues to the attention of the University community.”

LSA sophomore Jake Rothenberg said his primary motivation for attending the march was the need to promote campus safety. As information about the Gibbons case surfaced, he said he felt the administration was not doing its job of fostering a positive campus climate.

“It just seemed wrong,” Rothenberg said. “Our administrators should be promoting our safety and they should be making us feel comfortable.”

—Daily Sports Editor Greg Garno contributed to this report.

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