Student Sexual Misconduct Policy

If you have questions about the policy or its implementation, we have a number of Team Leads you may consult.  Public Affairs (Rick Fitzgerald and Kelly Cunningham) will field inquiries and connect “spokespeople” according to area of expertise.

Expertise/Spokespeople include:

FAQs about the creation of the new policy      FAQs on the new process      FAQs on possible outcomes

Q. Why was it necessary to create this new policy?
A. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights identified a need for institutions to more effectively address the issue of sexual misconduct among students and released additional guidance on this topic in April 2011 to all colleges and universities. University leaders identified this work as a priority requiring an intentional and principle-centered approach to development and put an interim procedure in place in August 2011. That created the space for the university community to be more fully engaged on the development of a long-term policy, which is now in place.

Q. When did the new policy take effect?
A. Aug. 19, 2013.

Q. How is the new policy different from the one in effect before August 2011?
A. There are two important changes first implemented with the interim policy; those changes carry over to the new policy. In many regards, the new policy now in effect is very similar to the interim policy. How an investigation is started: The new policy, like the interim policy, states that all allegations of sexual misconduct made against students are to be reviewed by the university’s Title IX coordinator. Under the previous procedure, the university investigated only if the victim of sexual misconduct elected to move forward. This investigatory approach is consistent with the Department of Education guidance. The standard of evidence: The 2011 Department of Education guidance also specified the standard of evidence to be used to determine if an allegation of sexual misconduct was valid. That standard is to be a “preponderance of the evidence.” Previously the university used a “clear and convincing evidence” standard with reports of sexual misconduct. Under the new policy, the university will rely on the “preponderance of the evidence” standard specified. Use of a preponderance of evidence standard also is consistent with the standard used by the university in evaluating allegations of sexual misconduct against faculty and staff. Additionally, the office to which violations of the policy are reported has changed. Under the new policy, all complaints about violations of the policy are to be reported to the Office for Institutional Equity, which will review the complaint. Previously, complaints were reported to the Office of Student Conflict Resolution. The change is consistent with the guidance from the Department of Education and also is consistent with how U-M handles complaints of sexual misconduct involving faculty or staff.

Q. What does that mean … “preponderance” of evidence?
A. The Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Education describes it this way: “… for a school’s grievance procedures to be consistent with Title IX standards, the school must use a preponderance of the evidence standard (i.e., it is more likely than not that sexual harassment or violence occurred).

Q. Why was the standard of evidence changed?
A. This change is consistent with the additional guidance received from the U.S. Department of Education. The “Dear Colleague” letter of April 2011 from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights can be read here: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201104.pdf

Q. How does the new policy affect possible criminal charges?
A. The policy has no bearing on possible criminal charges. A criminal investigation is handled separately from an investigation regarding a violation of the university’s policy on sexual misconduct.

Q. Who participated in the development of the new policy?
A. A broad spectrum of the university community was involved in the development of the new policy. The policy was created under the sponsorship of Vice President for Student Affairs E. Royster Harper, Suellyn Scarnecchia, special counsel to the president and clinical professor of law, and Vice President and General Counsel Timothy G. Lynch. An institutional advisory committee was appointed that represented a broad array of university community constituencies among its 15 members. Members of that committee included undergraduate and graduate students, staff from the Office of Student Conflict Resolution, the Office of Institutional Equity, the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center, the Division of Public Safety and Security and Athletics, faculty members and others. In addition, there were numerous meetings with Central Student Government, Rackham Student Government, many other student groups and public forums open to the entire university community.

Q. What does Title IX have to do with sexual misconduct? I thought Title IX regulated the number of sports offered for men and women?
A. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a federal law enacted in 1972 that amended the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The law says that: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance..." Sexual misconduct is a form of sexual discrimination.

Q. What efforts does U-M take to prevent sexual misconduct from happening on campus?
A. The university has a long history education and prevention regarding sexual misconduct and the leaders of these programs are frequently called upon as national experts. The Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center was established in 1986. SAPAC is committed to the belief that all people have the right to live free of violence and the fear of violence. Among its many programs are a 24-hour crisis hotline and a wide range of educational and advocacy efforts related to sexual assault, intimate partner violence, sexual harassment and stalking. The university also requires all first-year students to complete an online tutorial that addresses sexual assault and alcohol-related issues. Find a complete list of SAPAC programming here.

Q. What do I do if I experience sexual misconduct and I don’t want anyone else to know?
A. The Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (http://sapac.umich.edu/), provides confidential counseling to survivors of sexual misconduct. Nothing that a survivor tells a SAPAC counselor is shared with anyone without the survivor’s express, written permission. For a list of additional resources available to students seeking support, go to http://studentsexualmisconductpolicy.umich.edu/resource-chart

Q. How does this policy affect me if I’ve been sexually assaulted?
A. The policy sets out a very clear process through which the university will review the complaint and, if appropriate, bring appropriate interim measures or sanctions into play, depending on the circumstances of each specific case. It does not have any bearing on possible criminal charges, which can result from a separate police investigation.

Q. Why do you use the term “sexual misconduct” instead of “sexual assault”?
A. For the purposes of this policy sexual misconduct is used because the term encompasses a range of behaviors that can create a hostile educational environment, including sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Q. Is the university’s investigation the same as criminal justice process?
A. No. This new policy has no impact on a criminal investigation that would be handled separately by police. The university does, however, encourage anyone who believes they have experienced a sexual assault, or any other crime, to make a report to the U-M Police Department or other appropriate police agency.

Q. How long does the process take?
A. A number of factors can influence the amount of time it may take to investigate a report of sexual misconduct and bring it to conclusion. Once the university receives a report of possible sexual misconduct, the university will strive to complete its review within 60 days. If the university concludes that sexual misconduct occurred, the university strives to complete the sanctioning process within 15 days.

Q. Who is usually involved in the investigation process?
A. In most cases, the university’s Title IX Coordinator will appoint an investigator from the university’s Office for Institutional Equity to conduct a thorough fact-finding investigation. That typically includes meeting separately with the complainant, the respondent, the reporter (if applicable), witnesses and reviewing other pertinent information. At any time during the investigation the complainant, respondent or any witness may provide a written statement or other supporting materials. Any person involved in the investigation may have a support person present during any meeting.

Q: Who is the university's Title IX Coordinator?
A: Anthony Walesby, associate vice provost and senior director of the U-M Office for Institutional Equity serves in that role. Here is his contact information: 2072 Administrative Services Building 1009 Greene St. Ann Arbor, MI 48109 Phone: 734-763-0235; 734-647-1388 (tty) Email: walesby@umich.edu

Q. My friend told me he or she was assaulted. What can I do to help?
A. Connect your friend to information and resources so that they can make informed decisions about any steps they may wish to take in reporting the incident and seeking support. U-M’s student sexual misconduct policy website is designed to provide information on a student’s options in one central place. For more information on supporting a friend: "Helping a Survivor of Sexual Assault"

Q. What are my support resources if I am accused of sexual misconduct?
A. There are numerous support resources available for complainants and respondents, both on campus and in the Ann Arbor community. On the Ann Arbor campus, those resources available for respondents include the Dean of Students Office, Counseling and Psychological Services and the Office of the Ombuds. Additional information about services provided and contact information is detailed within the new policy.

Q. What if I’m an employee at the university and I have become aware of an incident of sexual misconduct?
A. All members of the university community are encouraged to report sexual misconduct. The university is committed to responding to any report of sexual misconduct made to a non-confidential university employee. Reports will be referred to the university’s Title IX Coordinator in the Office for Institutional Equity for review.

Q. A student has shared information with me about sexual misconduct and asked that I keep it confidential. How do I respond to this student’s request?
A. If you work for a confidential reporting location on campus (http://studentsexualmisconductpolicy.umich.edu/resource-chart), by all means keep that information confidential unless you get the express, written consent of the student to share that information. If you are a non-confidential U-M employee, your first step should be to explain to the student your obligation to take the necessary steps to protect the student’s safety and the safety of the university community, including to report the misconduct to the U-M Title IX coordinator for further review. You also should let the student know that, upon being notified of a potential sexual assault or other form of sexual misconduct that may also constitute a crime, the Title IX coordinator will notify U-M Police to ensure appropriate distribution of university-wide warnings, if needed, and maintenance of accurate statistics.

Q. What are the possible outcomes of a review?
A. Once an investigator from the Office for Institutional Equity has completed a review and the report has been reviewed by the Title IX Coordinator, the university’s official written determination generally will be provided to the complainant and the respondent. If the respondent has been found responsible for sexual misconduct the university will initiate a sanctioning process designed to eliminate the misconduct, its recurrence and remedy its effects while supporting the university’s educational mission and Title IX obligations. There also is an appeal process available to complainants and respondents.

Q. If I am found responsible for sexual assault/misconduct, what will be my next steps? A. If a respondent is found responsible for sexual misconduct, the university’s next step is to initiate a sanctioning process (http://studentsexualmisconductpolicy.umich.edu/sanctioning). Sanctioning is designed to eliminate the misconduct, prevent its recurrence and remedy its effects while supporting the university’s educational mission and Title IX obligations.

Q. What if I’m retaliated against for participating in an investigation? A. The university will take all appropriate steps to ensure that any person who reports or complains about sexual misconduct, or participates in a sexual misconduct investigation will not be subjected to retaliation. Anyone who believes they are experiencing retaliation is strongly encouraged to report that concern using the same procedure for reporting possible sexual misconduct under the policy. A retaliation concern will be reviewed as a separate offense under this policy.