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Former kicker Brendan Gibbons permanently separated from University for sexual misconduct

Erin Kirkland/Daily
Former Michigan kicker Brendan Gibbons has been permanently separated from the University for violating the institution's sexual misconduct policy, according to documents reviewed by The Michigan Daily.

By Matt Slovin, Daily Sports Writer
and Adam Rubenfire, Daily Staff Reporter
Published January 28, 2014

Brendan Gibbons, the Michigan football team’s starting kicker for the past three seasons, was permanently separated from the University of Michigan last month for violating the University’s Student Sexual Misconduct Policy, according to documents reviewed by The Michigan Daily.

“You will be permanently separated from the University of Michigan effective December 20, 2013,” reads a Dec. 19, 2013 letter addressed to Gibbons at his Florida residence from the University’s Office of Student Conflict Resolution, which facilitates disciplinary proceedings against students. The Michigan Daily did not obtain these documents from the University.

The permanent separation of Gibbons, who was a graduate student in the School of Social Work after graduating with a general studies degree, stems from an incident that was reported to have occurred on Nov. 22, 2009, according to documents. This corresponds with previous media reports that a sexual assault involving a Michigan football player occurred in the early morning hours of that day. Gibbons was a freshman and a member of the football team at the time that the conduct was alleged to have occurred.

In the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities as well as the Student Sexual Misconduct Policy, the University uses the phrase “permanent separation” to refer to the expulsion of a student. The letter to Gibbons, signed by Stacy Vander Velde, associate director of OSCR, stated that he would be prohibited from taking any further courses at the University and that his student privileges would be revoked.

An additional OSCR document signed by Vander Velde and dated Nov. 20, 2013, stated that it was determined by the University that a preponderance of evidence supports “a finding that the Respondent engaged in unwanted or unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, committed without valid consent, and that conduct was so severe as to create a hostile, offensive, or abusive environment.” The Daily has been told that the respondent referred to in this letter is Gibbons. Complainants in this case are not identified in the documents reviewed by the Daily.

Dave Ablauf, an associate athletic director and spokesman for the Athletic Department, declined to comment, noting that it was the first time it had been suggested to him that Gibbons was permanently separated.

“We can’t comment on anything that involves private student matters in terms of student academic standings or University standing,” Ablauf said.

University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said he could not comment on Gibbons' academic record because of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

Gibbons could not be immediately reached for comment.

Permanent separation is a very rare sanction in OSCR proceedings. In the latest OSCR data from the 2011-2012 academic year, there were zero permanent separations. The Statement of Students Rights and Responsibilities states that “some behavior is so harmful to the University community or so deleterious to the educational process” that it may result in expulsion, among other possible sanctions.

The Daily is not aware of any criminal charges pending against Gibbons. OSCR operates independently of the criminal justice system.

Investigators in the University’s Office of Institutional Equity, which reviews internal complaints of sexual assault, work with a lower standard of evidence than that of criminal prosecutors, who must prove that a defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. OIE may presume that a respondent engaged in alleged conduct if there is a “preponderance of evidence” against the individual. This standard states that a respondent is responsible if there is enough evidence to suggest a complaint is more likely true than not.

If OIE investigators find a respondent to be responsible for alleged conduct, OSCR officials determine what sanctions, if any, will be leveled against the respondent. According to Vander Velde’s letter to him, Gibbons met with OSCR officials on Dec. 4, 2013, to discuss OIE’s findings.

It’s unclear why sanctions were not decided in this matter until recently.