Statement by the University of Michigan Board of Regents


On behalf of the Board:

In February, the Board of Regents issued a unanimous resolution to conduct our own independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding both the delay in reporting and investigation of possession of child pornography by a U-M medical resident.

We made our intention clear: to insure that the unacceptable situation presented by this case is never repeated at the University of Michigan.

I am speaking today as board chair, but I speak for all of my colleagues unanimously.

We hired an external international law firm, Latham & Watkins LLP, to conduct a vigorous and fully independent investigation of the facts. And, the University retained outside experts, Margolis Healy & Associates, to examine the cultural and organizational issues that may have contributed to the delay.

We also solicited the perspectives of our current University leadership, which has worked tirelessly in support of our efforts to review and address these issues.

This work has now concluded. We have developed a detailed memo that summarizes our findings regarding the matter, and sets forth the remedial measures we will implement. Today, we will share this memo publicly, as we promised we would, and I will offer some highlights now.

Based upon the extensive investigation and consultation, the Regents have reached the following conclusions:

First, there was a clear failure among University personnel to timely and effectively communicate regarding the reported possession of child pornography by a medical resident. Regardless of the individual reasons for not reporting promptly, this failure is categorically unacceptable. It is incumbent upon all personnel who become aware of a concern of this gravity to promptly notify law enforcement. There can be no exceptions to that rule.

Second, certain University personnel (especially in the Health System and in the Office of General Counsel) inappropriately investigated the reported child pornography information independently, without involving an appropriate law enforcement agency, and determined there was not sufficient evidence to further pursue the concerns. That assessment was wrong and unacceptable. The individuals who made that determination are no longer employees of the University.

Third, the relationships and communication between the University’s Health System Security and the Department of Public Safety are broken and demand repair. There must be a University wide system that guarantees timely and effective communication of potential serious misconduct, as well as the safety and security of all of our University constituencies.

To remedy the problems uncovered through our review, we have resolved that the following will be done:

1. Creation of the “Division of Public Safety and Security” to bring together all safety and security components of the University’s Ann Arbor campus under a unified division

The division will be led by a newly appointed executive director of public safety and security, to whom the University chief of police and other security leadership will report directly. The executive director of DPSS will report directly to the president of the University.

We expect this consolidation will improve efficacy and consistency in incident response protocols and procedures.

Until a permanent director is hired, working with President Coleman, we will appoint University Police Chief Joe Piersante to serve as the interim executive director of DPSS. Chief Piersante is an experienced, respected and dedicated law enforcement official and understands the concerns raised by our investigation, and we appreciate his willingness to serve in this important interim role.

2. Formation of a search committee to conduct a nationwide search for an executive director for Public Safety & Security

The committee will be comprised of leaders inside and outside of the institution, including people with deep law enforcement expertise, and will search for the best candidate with proven organizational leadership and law enforcement experience.

3. Development and implementation of a Unified Standard Practice Guide related to safety and security

We have asked President Coleman to oversee the development and implementation of a guide that will assure a shared vision of safety and security across the university, as well as create direct and accountable responsibility for handling issues.

4. Continued implementation of improvements through the Safety & Security Steering Committee

Lastly, we note the efforts and progress made in recent months by the University’s Safety & Security Steering Committee. As detailed in the committee’s update that we are sharing today, the institution has instituted improvements in, among other things: 911 procedures, protocols for hospital incidents, shared communications across University divisions, debriefing on major security incidents, and training regarding duty to report requirements. We ask that the committee continue its efforts and report back to us no later than January 2013 regarding further progress. We consider this to be a matter of great urgency for the institution and will hold the committee responsible for delivering meaningful and demonstrable change in a timely way.

In conclusion, as we noted in March, the situation that gave rise to these changes is terrible and unacceptable. We can never again have a delay in timely reporting to law enforcement of this kind of serious misconduct. While the situation was caused by the inexplicable decisions of individuals, we acknowledge institutional responsibility for fixing the problem.

We want to express our gratitude, and this is very important, to the University physician who brought forward these concerns last November. We commend that person for following through and making sure this information came to light in a manner that ultimately resulted in the arrest and successful prosecution of the former medical resident. The University community needs and relies upon people who are willing to step up and do the right thing. It is the University’s policy and our firm expectation that all personnel will do just that. In addition to campus-wide 911 services for reporting crimes, the University maintains a Compliance Hotline through which anyone can raise concerns or allegations about any type of potential misconduct or safety issue. There will be no – no – retaliation against anyone in the University community for timely notification of misconduct or similar concerns.

We thank the investigative and prosecuting authorities at the University, in Washtenaw County and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit. They have been diligent and thorough in their response and prosecution of the former medical resident. We are grateful for their service.

The remedial changes we are ordering today are significant and will require considerable further resources and diligence. That is by design. The safety and security of our University family is sacrosanct. We must be and will always be fiercely vigilant when it comes to campus safety and security. We commit to the full and speedy implementation of these remedial mandates and will actively assess progress moving forward.

We know this has been very hard work, and many units on campus will be affected by the changes we are putting in place today. But we believe this has been an extremely important review process, with outcomes that will benefit the University community in the years ahead. All of us, unanimously, feel strongly that there is no greater priority than our community’s safety, security and well-being.

In conclusion, I want to thank Regent Ilitch, my predecessor as Chair, and President Coleman for their leadership during these months. At the board’s direction they worked together to put much of this work in motion and they have pursued it with diligence. I also want to add a thank you to Regent Taylor who gave voice to our concerns. They have had our full and unified support. Thank you.

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