July 15, 2021
The Board of Regents and I have announced several actions that will systemically change how the University of Michigan prioritizes the principles of care, support, and education in the prevention and adjudication of sexual misconduct.
Our goal is simple: to transform our University and its culture to reflect the core beliefs of our community.
These recent announcements are informed by the input of hundreds of people within our community, as well as national best practices. This includes faculty and staff who have been engaged in these issues for years, students who have shared their experiences, and committed members of our faculty governance groups. I thank everyone who has contributed to this work.
As U-M’s president, and on behalf of the regents and the University community, let me say today and always to those who may have suffered harm, that we believe you and we value you. We want you to come forward with trust and confidence in our systems and without the fear of retaliation.
The changes and actions reflect our community’s need for a safe and supportive University, the accountability that must be the foundation of our shared future, and a culture that fosters an environment of mutual respect and support for all. For any organization to truly change, it must first ask whether its current culture reflects its desired values and behaviors. Answering that question requires us to evaluate all facets of our University and commit to necessary changes.
New Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office
The new Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office (ECRT) will focus on care, support, education, and prevention. It replaces the Office for Institutional Equity, reports directly to the university president, and adds about a dozen positions to assist members of our community.
For instance, the office will have equity specialists to provide help and care both apart from and throughout the investigation process, and a resolutions officer who will track outcomes and ensure follow-up. This will improve the University’s investigative practices and provide oversight of sanctionable resolutions.
A new department within ECRT called Prevention, Education, Assistance, and Resources will build on our leadership in the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center and provide similarly high-quality and comprehensive prevention education and support for faculty and staff.
To lead the ECRT, I have appointed Tamiko Strickman as special adviser to the president and executive director of equity, civil rights, and Title IX. Tami’s leadership has been pivotal as we worked through these changes, and she is the right person to lead us into this new era of better preventing and addressing misconduct and discrimination in our community.
Additionally, to further collaboration with our community, we have established a Title IX advisory committee of students, faculty, and staff to provide perspectives and input on policies, procedures, prevention efforts, and other matters.
New University policies
Two new policies that go into effect immediately address potential issues of trust and accountability.
- Supervisors are prohibited from initiating or attempting to initiate an intimate relationship with a supervisee or those they have the authority to influence the career or employment status of. Trust among our faculty members, staff, students, and the community requires that all relationships on and off our campus are regarded with the utmost respect and that workplace power differentials are addressed properly. This new policy is at the forefront of such work nationally and directly confronts power differentials and the potential for exploitation and favoritism in the workplace.
- Another systemic policy change we are making immediately enables the Board of Regents to revoke emeritus and emerita status when new and compelling facts and circumstances become known and evaluated after a faculty member retires. The standard for emeritus and emerita status at a place like U-M is and should be set with the highest sense of responsibility.
Culture change working group and surveys
We will conduct a climate survey regarding sexual misconduct for faculty and staff, and over the next two semesters we will be launching a culture survey that will ask everyone to help define our desired values and behaviors.
This work will support the cultural journey that will engage our community in the enunciation of a set of unifying, shared values and set a lasting standard for campus behaviors, systems, and practices we can all be proud of.
I have appointed a working group that will oversee the development of a University-wide statement of shared values and desired behaviors through a process that will include robust engagement with faculty, staff, students, and other stakeholders across all three campuses and Michigan Medicine.
A more supportive and accountable University
I want to express my thanks to everyone whose commitment to a better U-M is making us a more supportive and accountable University. Your important contributions, along with the leadership of the regents and the work done by external firm Guidepost Solutions, together have inspired us to redouble our efforts to address the harms and the pain experienced by too many in our community and prevent them in the future.
The regents, leadership team, and I are committed to getting this right, and we will provide frequent updates as new work is completed and accountability measures are reported.
The journey to a better Michigan will be ongoing – as we strive to be a place where all in our community feel the respect, safety, and support they deserve, where everyone can pursue their dreams and ambitions, and where we live up to the highest standards of excellence as a leading public university.
Mark S. Schlissel, MD, PhD