Message from Vice President Harper to the Division of Student Life, student leaders

June 11, 2018

Dear Colleagues:

I write to you today to share newly revised and officially sanctioned definitions for “bullying” and “harassing” behavior by students under the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities. Such behavior remains prohibited.

Some of you may be aware that we have had multiple definitions of these behaviors on our website, including dictionary definitions and definitions drawn from state law. Earlier today, we updated and streamlined our definitions of “bullying” and “harassing” to rely only on definitions based on Michigan state law.  These definitions, as now posted on the website, are considered formal and authoritative.

The Statement begins with a strong commitment to “freedom of expression,” noting that the university’s “long tradition of student activism and … freedom of expression … includes voicing unpopular views and dissent.”

The revised definitions more precisely and accurately reflect the commitment to freedom of expression that has always been expressed in the Statement itself. Here are the new definitions:

Bullying: means any written, verbal, or physical act, or any electronic communication, directed toward a person that is intended to cause or that a reasonable person would know is likely to cause, and that actually causes, physical harm or substantial emotional distress and thereby adversely affects the ability of another person to participate in or benefit from the University’s educational programs or activities.  Bullying does not include constitutionally protected activity or conduct that serves a legitimate purpose.

Harassing: means conduct directed toward a person that includes repeated or continuing unconsented contact that would cause a reasonable individual to suffer substantial emotional distress and that actually causes the person to suffer substantial emotional distress. Harassing does not include constitutionally protected activity or conduct that serves a legitimate purpose.

A story will be posted later today in the University Record to share this information across the campus community. I also am reaching out to student leaders.

Thank you sharing this news with others and please reach out to me directly if you have questions or concerns.

With sincere thanks for everything you do for our students,

Royster Harper, Vice President for Student Life