News Story

U-M should do more to respect due process, civil liberties group says

Even with improved policies involving sexual misconduct allegations, Ann Arbor campus earns only a “C”

The University of Michigan does only a mediocre job of recognizing the due process rights of students who are accused of misconduct, including sexual misconduct. That’s according to the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, which recently issued a report on 53 leading institutions of higher education, including the U-M Ann Arbor Campus.

FIRE evaluated universities such as U-M, Harvard and Stanford on their policies for looking into allegations of misconduct and gave each a numeric rating for the rights it recognized. A university could earn anywhere from zero to 20 points. FIRE looked at how the Ann Arbor campus responded to two separate kinds of allegations: those that involve sexual misconduct and those that do not. U-M earned 12 points out of 20 for its policies on allegations of sexual misconduct, an improvement an improvement from 2018, when it earned only 8 points. But its score on policies governing other allegations went down, going from 12 to 10. This gave the university a “C.”

The FIRE scoring system is based on 10 components of due process. They include:

  • A meaningful presumption of innocence
  • The right to cross-examine one’s accuser
  • The right to present evidence on one’s behalf
  • The right to have enough time to review the evidence that supports the allegation, before any disciplinary hearing
  • The right to appeal an adverse ruling

U-M was dinged for not having a policy that lets individuals who are accused of sexual misconduct present all relevant evidence to a fact-finder. It also failed the standard that any expulsion be supported by clear and convincing evidence or the unanimous agreement of a panel.

Most of the 53 institutions in the report have two types of policies that cover allegations of sexual misconduct: those that are governed by Title IX and those that are not. According to FIRE, a university is more likely to recognize due process rights if a case of alleged misconduct is covered by Title IX. That’s a federal rule that applies to institutions receiving federal funding.

The University of Michigan is one of only four institutions that does not exempt some allegations of sexual misconduct from Title IX protections.

CapCon reached out to Rick Fitzgerald, the university’s associate vice president for public affairs. Fitzgerald said the university has changed its policies about allegations of sexual and gender-based misconduct to keep up with changes in local, state and federal regulations. He also referred CapCon to a Sept. 23, 2021, issue of The University Record, which describes the most recent changes in university.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.