University of Michigan announces ‘revamped protections’ for community members who report misconduct

New policy prohibits threats, retaliation against those who report wrongful conduct

University of Michigan's central campus in Ann Arbor on Nov. 3, 2020. (Meredith Bruckner)

ANN ARBOR – The University of Michigan announced on Thursday a new policy that protects students, faculty and staff who report misconduct.

Effective immediately, the revamped policy “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,” according to a U-M release.

The Protection from Retaliation policy is part of a larger university approach to better hold individuals accountable for misconduct and to address instances of retaliation on campus.

With a focus on the school’s sexual and gender-based misconduct policy, in addition to protecting individuals who report wrongful conduct from retaliation, the policy also protects those who participate in an investigation.

According to a U-M release, consulting firm Guidepost Solutions put forward policy recommendations and advised a standalone policy devoted to protecting school community members from retaliation is in line with national best practice.

Part of the new policy change also includes developing education and training programs for supervisors designed to prevent and reduce acts of retaliation, which can be subtle or direct. Other educational programs are in the works for the entire school community about recognizing the signs of retaliation and how 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,” associate vice president for human resources Rich Holcomb said in a statement. “Cultures that don’t support those who voice concerns are harmful not only to the individual but to the community.”

According to U-M, wrongful conduct are “actions or suspected actions that are illegal, fraudulent or violate university policies or procedures.” These include:

  • Sexual and gender-based misconduct
  • Fraud
  • Academic or research misconduct
  • Unauthorized use of university resources
  • Dishonest financial reporting
  • Bribery
  • All forms of prohibited discrimination

As part of the new policy, the school will lead what it’s calling fair fact-finding investigations of alleged misconduct. Administration officials with expertise in areas relevant to each investigation will look into reports of retaliation.

Employees and students found to have committed retaliation against anyone on campus could face dismissal and expulsion, respectively.

According to a school release, other efforts across campus are currently underway to ensure a safer community, including the formation of the new Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office, a group leading culture change on campus, a new option to revoke emeritus status from faculty members found guilty of misconduct and improved reporting channels.

Read the full policy here.

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.