June 2, 2011

U of M Cops Can No Longer Issue Bans For Life

David Jesse, former higher education reporter for AnnArbor.com, reported in the Detroit Free Press, that thanks to pressure from the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, officials at the University of Michigan have decided to eliminate lifetime bans. Reporter Jesse went to work for the Freep in February of 2011 shortly before a newsroom purge in which AnnArbor.com’s executive team axed one-third of its reporters, as well as the news site’s lead blogger, Edward Vielmetti.

On January 27, 2011, Dr. Mary Sue Coleman issued a directive that the University’s trespass policy be reviewed.

According to documents released by university officials in January 2011, since 2001 Michigan has issued 2,000 trespass citations in effect banning 2,000 individuals from various parts of its campus, including The Diag, University of Michigan Hospital and the UGLI. In comparison, over the “past several decades,” according to the Freep’s reporting, Oakland University has issued 400 persona non grata letters to individuals. Over the past three years, Michigan State University officials have banned just 57 individuals.

Michael Steinberg, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan told the Detroit Free Press, ”We’re concerned that the policy will be abused and that it has been abused.”

An Assistant professor at Wayne State’s Law School, who obviously understands the law, but whose tenure had better not hinge on subject-verb agreement, explained that the University of Michigan’s Trespass policy allegedly neglects to respect due process. “Other potential issues, said Lund, is that officers can issue the warnings without any notice and without any hearing and that the policy allows officers to cite people who are merely suspected of committing a crime.”

When questioned by a Freep reporter in January about the trespass policy, U of M’s Deputy Police Chief summed up the problem, thusly: ”We get a lot of people, of a criminal element, who come on our campus and prey on our students.”

The trespass policy, as well as the actions of campus DPS officers may have cost the University of Michigan $550,000 to settle a lawsuit with Dr. Andrei Borisov. In 2008 Dr. Andrei Borisov, a 15-year employee of U of M who had been raising questions about how some grant money was being used in the pediatrics/cardiology department. Following a meeting in which his superiors asked for his resignation, Borisov said he was escorted to his office by police officers who read a trespass warning to him and then arrested him when he attempted to  take his briefcase. Borisov was acquitted of the charges he faced as a result of the incident, said his attorney, Deborah Gordon of Bloomfield Hills. He subsequently filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against U of M which he recently won.

Under the settlement agreement obtained via the Freedom of Information Act, Michigan officials purged negative reviews in the lecturer’s file, as well as the “do not rehire” marker within his personnel record. As a part of the settlement, Michigan officials were forced to post a public apology on the college’s website April 22, 2011 calling events involving Borisov and his former employer “unfortunate and unintended.” The apology also said that, “the University regrets any incorrect information published about these events that harmed Dr. Borisov’s reputation.”

On the heels of that settlement, the trespass policy was revised. This opens the door to about 1,800 adults who have been banned for life from campus. Interim U of M DPS Police Chief Joe Piersante told the Freep, “he expects about 900 people to be notified by the end of the summer that they have been dropped from the list.”

Freep reporter David Jesse writes:

U-M drew criticism from the ACLU of Michigan and other groups for its appeals process. Under the old policy, the police chief was the sole appeals judge. Under the new policy, a person can appeal his or her ban to the police chief and then to the chief’s boss, the associate vice president for operations and facilities.

“(The new policy) reflects the values of the community in a more robust way,” said U-M General Counsel Suellyn Scarnecchia, who rewrote the policy. “It’s more transparent and more detailed.”

Beginning July 1, 2011, people who land on the University of Michigan’s list of people banned from either a building, campus, or all three campuses, will be banned for a maximum of one year, rather than for life. 

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