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March 22, 2018

MSU strives to improve effectiveness of sexual assault prevention and education programs, communications and mental health services

A preliminary report released by a Kansas City law firm reaffirmed Michigan State University’s Title IX policies reflect a strong and genuine commitment to combatting sexual misconduct.

However, the report also revealed opportunities for reframing prevention and education programs, enhancing mental health services and increasing awareness of available resources to the campus community.

The preliminary report, prepared by Husch Blackwell, is the second phase of a review that began in fall 2017. The first phase focused on MSU’s Title IX policies and procedures, which the reviewers noted are among the most comprehensive and robust they’ve seen.

The second phase evaluated the effectiveness of Title IX-related education and prevention programs, outreach and awareness efforts, and crisis and advocacy services. According to the preliminary report, the reviewers observed a significant divide between the strong Title IX programs available and the MSU community’s perceptions. The reviewers also recommended adding resources to increase mental health support services, improving and aligning training and education programs, and restructuring Title IX-related functions to improve clarity and accountability.

“We appreciate the efforts of Husch Blackwell to help MSU evaluate our Title IX education and prevention programs, as well as our effectiveness in communicating those programs and support services to 50,000 students and 15,000 employees,” Interim President John Engler said. “We know there is more work to be done, especially on further clarifying responsibilities and providing additional assistance in our prevention and education programs, and we are prepared to do it. Already we’ve established the Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct Workgroup plus updated the information and resources available on the Our Commitment webpage. We will act in the coming days on many of the ideas in the Husch Blackwell report and keep moving forward.”

The new Our Commitment website focuses on MSU’s values and the actions being taken to foster a safe environment. The page also includes areas to submit comments and suggestions for changes and improvements in relationship violence and sexual misconduct, health care and patient safety and youth protection.

“The themes identified in the preliminary report are consistent with feedback we’ve received across campus, and we’ve started looking for ways to take a holistic approach to our prevention and education programs. The review process assists us in reviewing best practices and collecting community feedback that we can use to strengthen our programs,” said Jessica Norris, MSU’s Title IX director. “We are committed to making positive changes at MSU and look forward to working with the community as we take action in response to the report.”

To help finalize the report, the Sexual Violence Advisory Committee and Norris are hosting Campus Climate Forums on March 25 and March 26. Participants will have the opportunity to provide reactions to the preliminary report and additional feedback on the programs, efforts and services to the external review team. Visit Reflect, Connect, Support for information about the events.

A copy of the preliminary report is available on the Title IX website.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program or activity that receives federal funding. MSU’s Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct policy, administered by the Office of Institutional Equity, prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and sexual harassment, including gender-based harassment, sexual assault/misconduct, relationship violence and stalking. For more information on MSU’s Title IX program, including the preliminary report as well as reporting and resources information, visit MSU’s Title IX website.