ANN ARBOR, MI – University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel said Thursday, Feb. 15, that the university would engage an outside expert to review its policies and practices to be sure UM is doing all it can to prevent and respond to reports of sexual misconduct.
In his opening remarks of Thursday’s Board of Regents meeting, Schlissel said the review was a reflection of the university’s commitment to education and prevention efforts as well as having fair and effective processes for addressing sexual misconduct in the UM community.
It also came after recent news of a former UM doctor Mark F. Hoeltzel, who was jailed on federal charges of possessing and receiving child pornography. Hoeltzel was found in possession of thousands of erotic photos of prepubescent to pubescent children on his computers, Woodward said, including over 300 that were pornographic or showed genitals.
Addressing the case of Hoeltzel, Schlissel said UM has retained an “experienced national firm” with health care expertise to investigate the matter. He noted the doctor no longer works for Michigan Medicine, which immediately took steps to protect its patients by removing Hoeltzel from patient care duties the day it was alerted of the investigation.
“We want to understand how this disturbing situation occurred so that we can best work to prevent such things in the future,” Schlissel said. “We will share findings when the investigation is complete.
“This occurrence on our own campus, as well as other episodes of sexual misconduct across the country, compel us to remain vigilant while always looking for ways to make this a safer and more supportive university,” he added.
In the meantime, UM also is taking a more broad look at how it handles all aspects of sexual misconduct reporting, Schlissel said.
“We are examining our procedures to see where we can improve reporting, accountability and support for those who come forward,” Schlissel said. “This is a top institutional priority for all of us, including the Board (of Regents) and the executive team.
“We’ll ask an outside expert to assess the quality of our current efforts and suggest what we can be doing better, so we can make any fixes necessary,” he added.
Members of the Board of Regents also expressed a desire for UM to be diligent in how it responds to reports of sexual misconduct.
Regent Andrew Richner said he urged the university to be thorough in examining how it responds to complaints of sexual misconduct.
“I know the university is really focused and proactive in doing everything we can to tackle the problem with sexual misconduct, wherever it may exist,” Richner said. “As we re-examine our policies, practices and procedures, I would urge that nothing be off the table when it comes to protecting the health and safety of our university community.”
Regent Denise Ilitch encouraged those who are victims or are aware of incidents of sexual misconduct to report them to the university.
“We’re going to do everything we can to have a safe environment at Michigan,” she said. “There’s going to be a lot more to come, but I want to speak to the UM community and say ‘report, report, report.'”
Earlier this month, UM updated its policy and procedures regarding student sexual and gender-based misconduct following a regular review in the fall.
Changes, which took effect on Feb. 7, include revising definitions of gender-based harassment and intimate partner violence; changing responsibility for determining sanctions from a volunteer board to staff at the Office for Student Conflict Resolution; and clarifying when mediation may be used as a voluntary alternative resolution option for non-penetrative cases of sexual assault.
Under the revised policy, the definition of gender-based harassment was revised to reflect how to handle cases where there is harassment based upon gender and another protected class such as race, national origin, disability or veteran status.