Revamped protections against retaliation take effect for U-M faculty, staff and students

November 11, 2021
Contact: Dave Reid public.affairs@umich.edu

The University of Michigan has announced revamped protections for faculty, staff and students who report wrongful conduct.

The new program, which includes a standalone policy, is part of a comprehensive approach to address retaliation on campus and better ensure accountability for wrongful conduct.

The Protection from Retaliation policy is effective immediately and prohibits acts or threats of retaliation, whether subtle or direct, that adversely affect employment or education as a result of making good-faith reports of wrongful conduct or participating in an investigation.

The policy amplifies the university’s policy on sexual and gender-based misconduct and prohibits retaliation against anyone who reports wrongful conduct or participates in an investigation. It elevates and extends protections in keeping with policy recommendations from the consulting firm of Guidepost Solutions for clear protections from retaliation for reporting a broader range of wrongful conduct across the university community.

Having a standalone policy that clearly protects faculty, staff and students from retaliation, is considered a national best practice, according to the Guidepost experts.

As part of the university’s commitment to protect faculty, staff and students from retaliation, the university is currently developing training and education programs designed to help mitigate and eliminate retaliation. Retaliation can be direct or subtle and subtle forms of retaliation can be more difficult to recognize and uproot.

Training programs for supervisors will begin in January and will go beyond legal definitions of direct retaliation. Additionally, the university is developing education programs for the university community at large about what is and might be perceived as retaliation and how and where to report it.

“We want an environment and culture for faculty, staff and students where there is no fear of reporting misconduct, and we need to be deliberate about creating those conditions,” said Rich Holcomb, associate vice president for human resources. “Cultures that don’t support those who voice concerns are harmful not only to the individual but to the community.”

Wrongful conduct includes actions or suspected actions that are illegal, fraudulent or violate university policies or procedures. That includes sexual and gender-based misconduct, fraud, academic or research misconduct, unauthorized use of university resources, dishonest financial reporting, bribery and all forms of prohibited discrimination.

Fair fact-finding inquiries of alleged wrongful conduct will be conducted and guided by university policies and applicable laws. Reports of retaliation will be investigated by administration officials with expertise in the relevant area.

Those found to have retaliated against any member of the university community will be subject to actions that could include dismissal for employees and expulsion for students.

Additionally, the university is in the process of streamlining and revamping its channels for reporting wrongful conduct and retaliation. The university’s website was updated over the summer to improve information on the ways in which sexual or gender-based misconduct can be reported to police or to the university. This work to improve reporting is ongoing.

Guidance about compliance with university policy or an applicable law can be sought by:

  • Submitting a question via the Ethics, Integrity and Compliance website.
  • Contacting a compliance specialist who works in the area relevant to a university community member’s concern on the Topics & Contacts page of the Ethics, Integrity and Compliance website.
  • Contacting the compliance coordinator in the Office of General Counsel, who can offer further guidance on the various resources and disclosure mechanisms.

Faculty, staff and students can visit the Protection from Retaliation policy for a complete list of confidential and nonconfidential options for reporting wrongful conduct or retaliation.

This latest policy is part of the comprehensive work that is taking place to make campus safer for every member of the community. Other developments include:

ECRT formation — The new Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office is taking shape with expanded resources dedicated to prevention, education and support while continuing to investigate allegations of misconduct and discrimination. It was officially formed Aug. 1.

A new deputy coordinator for civil rights and Title IX outcomes and one of two additional equity specialists started work in October. Equity specialists will be part of a team to improve coordination of supportive services to all who report misconduct and to serve as a resource to all parties from initial intake through resolution.

Searches also are underway for a deputy Title IX coordinator for Michigan Medicine, assistant director for civil rights, and the director of the Prevention, Education, Assistance and Resources division. The PEAR director will lead a team designed to better coordinate the delivery of services and will collaborate with units that provide services outside of ECRT.

Annual reports — The university’s Title IX coordinator will continue to produce an annual report detailing the university’s response to reports of prohibited conduct involving students, employees or third-party vendors. The fiscal year 2021 report is expected later this fall.

Culture change — A campuswide working group on culture change is leading an effort to “create an environment of mutual respect and accountability that is free from retaliation, where everyone can feel safe to report misconduct and feel supported throughout the process.”

Ethics and compliance — The university has committed to examining its compliance and ethics function across the university and considering whether it is aligned with best practices around the country.

Emeritus revocation — In July, the university revised its policy on emeritus status for retiring faculty members to include, for the first time, a process to revoke that status from faculty members for misconduct or other compelling circumstances.

Reporting channels — The university’s website was updated over the summer to improve access to ways in which sexual or gender-based misconduct can be reported to police or to the university.

Romantic relationships with learners — Faculty members are prohibited from having romantic or sexual relationships with undergraduate students on any of the three U-M campuses following significant revisions to the university’s policy on faculty-student relationships implemented in 2019.

Supervisor-employee relationships — In July, the university put in place a best-practices policy that prohibits supervisors from initiating or attempting to initiate an intimate relationship with anyone they supervise.

Title IX advisory group — The Title IX coordinator has established an advisory committee of students, faculty and staff to provide perspectives and input on policies, procedures, prevention efforts and other matters related to sexual and gender-based misconduct.

Updated policy in place — The university this fall finalized a policy and procedures for addressing sexual and gender-based misconduct that will add consistency by applying to all students, faculty, staff and third parties across the entire university community.

The U-M Policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Misconduct, Standard Practice Guide 601.89, employee procedures and student procedures, all went into effect Oct. 1 on the Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint campuses, including Michigan Medicine.

 

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