Michigan State University’s second annual Title IX report highlights continued progress in addressing and preventing relationship violence and sexual misconduct, including the timeliness of the investigative and student conduct processes and an increase in the number and type of education and prevention programs.
The report, created by the Office for Institutional Equity and Title IX Office, also details the number of relationship violence and sexual misconduct complaints the university received during the 2016-17 academic year, as well as MSU’s response to reported incidents.
Although the number of reports increased from last academic year, Title IX Director Jessica Norris believes that is a result of continued efforts to raise awareness, rather than an increase in actual incidents.
“Our goal is to foster a culture where individuals who report feel supported and have resources and options for addressing incidents,” she said. “We believe the increase in reports that we are seeing is reflective of our efforts to encourage individuals to report and access resources.”
Data from the National College Health Assessment seem to bear that out; MSU students have the highest level of awareness regarding sexual assault and relationship violence among all participating universities. Additionally, last year 97 percent of students took part in online training on relationship violence and sexual misconduct; 94 percent of employees scheduled to complete the training did so.
And despite that increase in the number of reported incidents, Norris said, both the Office of Institutional Equity and the Department of Student Life have continued to maintain the timeliness of their respective processes, while completing thorough and impartial investigations and preserving fairness for all parties.
For the 2016-17 academic year (Aug. 16, 2016 to Aug. 15, 2017), there were 718 incidents reported to OIE under MSU’s Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct Policy, including sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, relationship violence, stalking and retaliation. For the previous academic year, there were 461 incidents reported.
Of the 718 reports, 74 were formally investigated and 19 are still open, resulting in 44 violation findings. Sanctions for those incidents range from dismissals to probation. Of the 625 reports not formally investigated by OIE, 451 were because the complainant either did not wish to move forward or did not respond to investigators; 101 were cases where MSU did not have jurisdiction; 50 cases did not meet the standard set in the RVSM policy; and 23 were resolved through administrative processes outside of OIE.
A full copy of the report can be found at http://titleix.msu.edu/information-reports/index.html.
The annual report comes shortly after MSU announced it selected law firm Husch Blackwell to perform the Title IX program review announced last spring.
The firm, hired earlier this month, will focus on five key areas: Title IX compliance, crisis and advocacy support services, prevention and education programs, awareness and outreach, and campus feedback.
“This report, and our external review, highlight our longstanding commitment to create a campus community that is free of sex discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual violence,” Norris said.
For more information on MSU’s OIE and Title IX offices, policies and procedures, including information on resources and how to report misconduct, please visit http://oie.msu.edu/ or http://titleix.msu.edu/.