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UM revising sexual misconduct policy following court ruling

The University of Michigan Union
Wikimedia Commons
University of Michigan student union

The University of Michigan is revising its student sexual misconduct policy after the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court ruled that students accused of sexual misconduct must have the opportunity to question their accuser in an in-person hearing in cases where credibility is at issue.

In the lawsuit, an anonymous former student claims that he was denied due process when he was found he committed sexual misconduct in 2016. 

In the case, a female student claimed that she did not consent to a sexual encounter with John Doe that occurred at a fraternity party. The investigation ultimately sided with the female student. That investigation was carried out under UM's Policies and Procedures on Student Sexual and Gender-Based Misconduct and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence.

Faced with expulsion, Doe withdrew from the university. He filed a lawsuit in federal court, and the case was thrown out. The Sixth Circut Court reversed that decision in September.

Although the University argued for a trauma-informed cross examination process in which parties could submit written questions and answers, the court held that the accused student has a right to an in-person hearing. 

According to an article in The University Record, the updated policy will be available later in the fall, and will include an in-person hearing. The Sixth Circuit suggested that cross examination could be carried out by an agent of the student, rather than by the student directly, to minimize trauma to the victim. However, the University says that students who are party to a sexual misconduct investigation will ask questions at the hearing. Hearings will be conducted by a trained hearing officer.

The University of Michigan declined an interview request for this story.

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