Status of the WilmerHale recommendations

Dec. 3, 2020

The U-M Board of Regents and President Mark Schlissel have hired the expert consulting firm of Guidepost Solutions to help the university maintain its forward momentum on combatting sexual misconduct by creating an environment where misconduct and retaliation are not tolerated and trust is rebuilt.

Guidepost will collaborate with the university in the coming year to implement recommendations made July 31, 2020, in a report on the investigation into sexual misconduct by former U-M provost Martin Philbert. Below is an update on the status of the work being done on the recommendations included in the report by the WilmerHale law firm.

Dec. 3: Firm to help implement sexual misconduct recommendations

 

Category 1: Ensuring that information about sexual misconduct and other inappropriate behavior reaches the Office for Institutional Equity and other the appropriate university officials.

Recommendation: Develop and adopt a standalone policy regarding consensual relationships between employees that requires notice and recusal and/or mitigation of possible conflicts of interest.

Status: Partially complete. University Human Resources and the Office of the General Counsel have outlined key areas for enhancement for the current nepotism policy. This work will continue with guidance from Guidepost Solutions.

Recommendation: Ensure that students and employees are aware of the avenues for reporting sexual misconduct. This includes further education of the university community, including students and employees.          

Status: Several steps have been taken to enhance awareness:

  • Reporting avenues are directly linked from the top of the U-M gateway website (umich.edu).
  • An all-campus message on reporting options was sent Aug. 10, 2020.
  • The university rolled out Aug. 14, 2020, an interim umbrella policy for addressing sexual and gender-based misconduct that would apply to all students, faculty, staff and third parties across the university community

Recommendation: Enhance the visibility and training of university personnel who are required to report information about sexual harassment that is reported to them or that otherwise comes to their attention.

Recommendation: Consider additional OIE training of certain groups such as Human Resources directors within campus units on reporting obligations regarding suspected sexual misconduct involving employees. 

Status: Training has been a high priority to OIE and others.

OIE has completed training with dozens of groups on campus within at least half of the schools and colleges on the Ann Arbor campus. Additional units have scheduled training through the remainder of the 2020 calendar year and into the spring of 2021. Some groups also have received training from outside of U-M.

Recommendation: Require that all employees receive annual online training regarding (1) the avenues for reporting sexual misconduct, (2) which employees are mandatory reporters, and (3) the reporting obligations of mandatory reporters (i.e. under what circumstances they are required to report and how they are told to do so.)

Status: The university is committed to this effort, which will benefit from the insight of Guidepost Solutions.

A new online training module for all “individuals with reporting obligations,” (IROs) under the interim umbrella policy is complete.

Recommendation: Ensure that all employees understand their role in responding to reports of sexual misconduct regardless of whether they are an individual with reporting obligations. 

Status: The university is committed to this effort, which will benefit from the insight of Guidepost Solutions.

Recommendation: Ensure that training identifies confidential resources available to the university community and include content on a bystander’s role in recognizing the warning signs of sexual misconduct and intervening when appropriate.

Status: The university is committed to this effort, which will benefit from the insight of Guidepost Solutions.

Recommendation: Provide alternative oversight of sexual misconduct allegations involving senior members of the Provost’s Office, which is ordinarily responsible for overseeing OIE.

Status: Completed. Amended Standard Practice Guides and the Interim Policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Misconduct transfer investigation oversight to the executive vice president and chief financial officer when allegations involve senior members of the Provost’s Office staff or OIE offices on any of the three campuses.

Recommendation: Conduct a climate survey regarding sexual misconduct for faculty and staff and share the results with the community.

Status: Preparation for a survey has begun. A campuswide survey will require careful drafting, input, implementation and follow up. OIE has reached out and asked academic leaders to share any unit-based surveys to serve as valuable background. The university is committed to a campus survey and will benefit from the insight of Guidepost Solutions.

 

Category 2: Ensuring that OIE’s findings are based upon full investigations.

Recommendation: Evaluate OIE investigative practices to ensure that OIE is identifying and, as appropriate, pursuing additional investigative avenues when complainants decline to participate in an investigation.

Status: OIE is proceeding with this evaluation and the development of additional avenues for gathering critical information.

Recommendation: Establish a process for formally reviewing OIE investigative files to provide quality assurance and confidence in investigation procedures and outcomes.

Status: Underway. OIE and is committed to this effort, which will benefit from the insight of Guidepost Solutions.

 

Category 3: Ensuring that the university’s hiring decisions are informed by past findings of policy violations, including findings regarding sexual misconduct.

Recommendation: For internal candidates: Ensure that substantiated findings of policy violations and other misconduct are available to decision makers and systematically considered.

Recommendation: For internal candidates: Ensure that findings of policy violations and other misconduct by internal candidates for leadership positions are collected and accessible, and establish a formal written process for obtaining and considering such findings in promotion, tenure, appointment, reappointment and other hiring decisions involving internal candidates.

Recommendation: For internal candidates: Ensure that individuals involved in promotion, tenure, appointment and other hiring decisions involving internal candidates understand that previously unreported sexual misconduct should be reported to OIE.

Status: The Provost’s Office has established a process for checking with OIE regarding any faculty members being considered for promotion or tenure. Additionally, OIE and Academic Human Resources are consulted on any faculty members being considered for leadership positions and other awards. This work will benefit from additional insight from Guidepost Solutions.

Recommendation: For external candidates: Review university procedures for vetting external candidates for faculty and staff positions and consider implementing a pilot program that enhances our ability to identify findings by previous employers of sexual or other misconduct.

Status: The university conducts background checks for all external candidates and has begun to explore additional work in this area. This effort will benefit from additional insight from Guidepost Solutions.