University of Michigan owes public full disclosure in child pornography case
When the news broke in January 2012 that six months had passed between the discovery of child pornography on a University of Michigan Hospitals computer and the reporting of that discovery to police, many in the university community were shocked.
At the time, U-M President Mary Sue Coleman called it a “serious failure on the part of our institution.”
Last week, an AnnArbor.com review of documents released by the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office showed how a lack of coordination and communication among several units responsible for safety and security on campus allowed the investigation to be shut down without police involvement.
Ultimately, Stephen Jenson, the resident who brought the pornography to the hospital on a thumb drive, was sentenced to three years in prison, but the reporting lapse allowed him to avoid prosecution for six months.
Since the discovery of the reporting delay, the university has taken several steps to make sure such an incident does not happen again. We applaud those measures, which include creating a new division of Public Safety and Security to foster better coordination between police and security divisions on campus.
But we’re troubled that the university continues to insist publicly that one person was largely responsible for the mishandling of the case. At least eight people, some in high-ranking positions, knew about the discovery of the child pornography and none of them took responsibility for going to the police. Such behavior shows a “not-my-job” mentality that reflects poorly on the individuals and the institution.
We also believe the university, as a publicly funded institution accountable to the public, should go further than it has in revealing the findings of external reviews into the university’s handling of the case.
As well as conducting an internal review of the reporting lapse, the university paid for two external reviews, one by campus security experts Margolis Healy that cost $120,000 and another by law firm Latham & Watkins that cost $487,000. Although the university has released the results of the internal review and the Margolis Healy report, it has cited attorney-client privilege in not releasing the Latham & Watkins report.
While we understand the university’s desire to shield itself from legal claims, we believe this case is so important to public safety and public trust in the university that U-M should release the full report.