UM expands definition of sexual assault in new policy

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

The University of Michigan expanded Wednesday the definition of conduct that would be considered sexual assault under a revised policy that will go into effect July 1.

Acts that would be banned include gender-based harassment, intimate partner violence and stalking. Consent is also made clearer in the policy which also includes more details about prohibited behaviors of force, incapacitation and coercion.

The policy outlines employees who are responsible for sharing information about suspected sexual assault and also includes more information about how UM shares information with police for public safety and compliance with federal requirements.

It also includes procedural changes to ensure fairness in the process.

“Our goals in updating the policy were to make it more clear and efficient for all students using it, continue to ensure it is fair for all, and to meet new federal law and guidelines,” President Mark Schlissel said in an update on the UM president’s Web page. “In crafting the policy, we were informed by the university’s experience with cases brought under prior university policies, as well as our understanding about ways to encourage and support reporting and participation by all students.”

UM, along with Michigan State University and other universities across the country, has been under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights for its handling of sexual assault cases on campus.

The issue also has been part of the conversation among national and local leaders. In 2014, the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault issued its first report, Not Alone, which said one in five women will be sexually assaulted in college.

President Barack Obama spearheaded a campaign to address the issue and Michigan first lady Sue Snyder convened a summit in hopes of making Michigan a national model in the fight against sexual assault.

For more than a year, UM has taken numerous steps worked to respond to the campus assault such as assessing the climate on campus, expanding training for new employees and more.

The full policy will be available April 6 and will be known as the University of Michigan Policy and Procedures on Student Sexual and Gender-based Misconduct and other forms of Interpersonal Violence.

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