OSCR report offers insight into impact of changed process
The latest annual report from the Office of Student Conflict Resolution shows a small decline in the overall number of reported violations of the U-M student code of conduct, and what appears as a significant increase in the number of reported sexual assault and sexual harassment violations.
That increase, however, does not mean more sexual assaults occurred on the Ann Arbor campus, explains Jay Wilgus, OSCR director. OSCR is the campus office responsible for administering the student code, also known as the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities.
“What we do have is a shift in the way in which the university responds to reported sexual misconduct violations that brings more of these matters to our attention and allows us to take action,” Wilgus says. “And this new approach offers the campus community greater accountability.”
That shift came as a result of the university’s careful review of guidance issued in April 2011 by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights that offered additional perspective on how universities should respond to allegations of sexual misconduct among students.
The annual report now being made public is the first issued since the university implemented its interim procedure for addressing sexual misconduct allegations against students in August 2011, Wilgus says.
Key recommendations from the Office for Civil Rights, which U-M followed in its interim procedure, were in how an investigation is started and the standard of evidence used to substantiate an allegation.
Under the interim procedure, the university’s Title IX coordinator reviews all allegations of sexual misconduct by students. Previously the university utilized a complainant-driven approach.
The interim procedure also uses a “preponderance of the evidence” (more likely than not) standard to evaluate an allegation, where previously the university used a “clear and convincing evidence” (reasonably certain) standard.
Given those changes, the 2011-12 OSCR annual report shows that among the 497 total reported violations of the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities, 62 involved sexual assault or sexual harassment. In the previous year, OSCR handled a total of 537 reported violations with three involving sexual assault or sexual harassment.
Implementing the interim procedure for addressing sexual misconduct among students was one of the key accomplishments for the year for OSCR. Others included processing a record number of background checks prior to study abroad trips, offering training sessions on conflict resolution, and consulting with units across campus on student conduct and conflict resolution.
In the coming year OSCR will continue its work to implement the long-term policy for addressing student sexual misconduct, which is undergoing final review, Wilgus says. The office also will plan for relocation due to the renovation of South Quad.