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April 27, 2021

MSU releases strategic plan to address sexual assault prevention and response

After several years of research and analysis, Michigan State University today released an institution-wide strategic plan to address sexual assault, sexual harassment, relationship violence and stalking issues that collectively will help foster a safer campus community.

The Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct strategic plan builds on the work of the RVSM Expert Advisory Workgroup, which has been a major driver of RVSM efforts on campus and was tasked with creating a values-driven operational plan with recommended initiatives, timelines and metrics.

The Workgroup — co-chaired by Rebecca Campbell, professor of psychology and  Andrea Munford, lieutenant and coordinator of the Center for Trauma-Informed Investigative Excellence at the MSU Police Department — was formed in 2018 to make immediate recommendations to transform MSU’s institutional response to RVSM and oversee the implementation of those changes in the wake of the Larry Nassar crisis. Members of the workgroup were appointed by the president based on their expertise in RVSM services, prevention, policy and/or research.

Upon his arrival in 2019, President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D., asked the workgroup to develop a five-year strategic plan as one of three strategic planning efforts underway.

“Since I arrived at MSU, I’ve been extremely grateful for the expertise and knowledge on the RVSM Expert Advisory Workgroup,” Stanley said. “Their leadership is instituting real change at our university. Under their advisement, it was evident early on that we needed a plan to continue the progress we’ve already made. Addressing global problems through both action and understanding is part of our Spartan way.”

The RVSM strategic plan will eventually overlap with the efforts of the other initiatives — the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Plan and the MSU Strategic Plan — that are scheduled for release later this year.

“We have been developing a strategic plan around RVSM for the past few years, focusing on a values-driven approach,” said Munford. “We believe this is a comprehensive plan to respond to what we have been hearing from the campus community.”

MSU partnered with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Division of Victim Services — led by Debi Cain, executive director — on several initiatives in this RVSM Strategic Plan.

“This plan represents a groundbreaking institutional approach to culture change that will serve as a model for other colleges and universities throughout the U.S.,” said Cain, executive director of the Division of Victim Services at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “We look forward to continuing our partnership with Michigan State University and working toward our shared vision of creating better services for survivors while implementing long-term strategies to prevent sexual violence on college campuses.” 

Since 2020, the strategic initiatives were developed from a review of existing literature; an inventory of prevention and response programs; assessments which included the Know More @ MSU campus survey, listening sessions, open forums; and input from campus experts and community members. In 2019, President Stanley hosted three meetings with sexual assault survivors and their families. Some of these activities were halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic but resumed in mid-2020.

The RVSM strategic plan seeks to increase help-seeking rates and decrease the incidence of RVSM by developing trauma-informed, intersectional programs to address the needs of MSU’s diverse communities. Some of the key initiatives outlined:

  • Expanding trauma-informed services
  • Building trauma-informed culture
  • Strengthening RVSM policy violations, sanctions and discipline process
  • Assessing resources and supports for respondents
  • Strengthening RVSM prevention programming
  • Creating respectful work environments
  • Promoting accountability

The plan outlines these recommendations along with a list of actions and a timeline for measuring this work to track and evaluate the university’s progress toward meeting the goals of the presented initiatives.

“We heard clearly from MSU students, faculty, staff and alumni that we need a significant culture change in our institutional approach to RVSM,” said Campbell. “We have worked on identifying policies, programs, training and initiatives that will transform services and prevention and increase accountability.”

The RVSM Workgroup will oversee the implementation of changes to policies, organizational structure and prevention programming in partnership with the Office for Civil Rights and Title IX Education and Compliance; the Prevention, Outreach and Education Department; the MSU Sexual Assault Health Care Program; the RVSM Policy; and several other initiatives that promote a safer campus.

A full list of changes MSU has made to address RVSM can be found on the Our Commitment website.

By: Chris Chapman

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