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University of Michigan reports jump in sexual misconduct complaints against faculty, staff

The "Diag" on the University of Michigan's main campus in Ann Arbor.
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
The "Diag" on the University of Michigan's main campus in Ann Arbor.

The University of Michigan has seen sexual misconduct complaints against faculty, staff and third parties shoot up 161% in one year, according to a new university report.

The report covers complaints made from July 2017 through June 2018. U of M policy defines sexual misconduct as a range of behaviors, ranging from inappropriate comments to sexual assault and stalking.

The school reports it received 235 sexual misconduct complaints against employees and other third parties during that time frame, up from about 90 the prior year. The report attributes that spike to “the University community’s continued awareness of these issues and how to report concerns, as well as an increased societal awareness of sexual misconduct, such as through the #MeToo movement.”

The university says it followed up on all the complaints it received. Three were handled by Human Resources per collective bargaining agreement guidelines. Of the 232 cases handled by U of M’s Office of Institutional Equity, responses fell into three categories: consultations, reviews, and investigations.

“Consultations are questions or reports that can be addressed appropriately without a review or investigation,” and can be resolved by supervisors or HR, according to the report. The OIE handled 124 of the reported cases through consultations. It also conducted 82 reviews in cases where complaints were deemed serious in nature, but lacked sufficient information for the university to conduct a full investigation.

26 complaints resulted in investigations, of which 18 have been completed. Those found seven violations of the university’s sexual harassment policies, and five instances of “inappropriate behavior.” As a result, three employees were terminated, and five resigned. Others received “educational measures,” a written reprimand, or “restriction from certain University spaces.”

The report did not name the disciplined employees, or detail the nature of their violations. University policy is to inform its Department of Public Safety and Security of sexual misconduct reports that are “criminal in nature,” but the report did not divulge whether any of the reported cases met that standard. Asked about that on Monday, a U of M spokesman said only that the “OIE report does not track police investigations.”

The University uses a “preponderance of the evidence” standard when investigating whether sexual misconduct violations occurred. That means “individuals are presumed not to have engaged in the alleged conduct unless a preponderance of the evidence supports a finding that the conduct occurred. The preponderance of the evidence standard requires that the evidence supporting each finding be more convincing than the evidence obtained in opposition to it.”

The report notes that “the University continues to focus on educational measures intended to prevent sexual misconduct and ensure that those who are experiencing it have information about resources and reporting options.” More information on U of M sexual harassment policies and reporting mechanisms can be found here.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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