ACLU urges University of Michigan to change policy on student sexual misconduct

By Meredith Bruckner - Community News Producer

ANN ARBOR - The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and the American Civil Liberties Union Women's Rights Project sent a letter to the University of Michigan's administration on Thursday calling for it to amend a potentially "traumatizing" student sexual misconduct policy.

The current interim policy requires those who file sexual misconduct complaints to be cross-examined by their alleged abusers.

In the letter, the ACLU explains that while it is committed to a fair process for both the accuser and the accused in sexual misconduct cases, it feels cross-examination should only be conducted by trained professionals.

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"The University should not require those who allege sexual violence to undergo cross-examination conducted by the very individual accused of having committed the assault," Bonsitu Kitaba, deputy legal director at the ACLU of Michigan, said in a statement. "The only people conducting cross-examination in these very difficult hearings should be representatives with professional training."

The ACLU's letter warns that the current policy of allowing an alleged accuser to personally question the complainant violates Title IX and has traumatizing effects that could deter future complaints and create a "hostile campus environment."

It went on to explain that most universities do not require the parties themselves to conduct cross-examination.

"The University of Michigan’s policy is unnecessarily traumatizing for those who report sexual assault and could deter survivors from coming forward," Sandra Park, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, said in a statement. "It could also contribute to a hostile environment on campus in violation of Title IX."

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