Responding to Relationship Violence, Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Assault

The University Policy on Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct is clear: MSU is committed to maintaining a learning and working environment for all students, faculty, and staff that is fair, humane, and responsible—an environment that supports career and educational advancement on the basis of job and academic performance. Relationship violence, stalking, and sexual misconduct are not tolerated at MSU.

  • The MSU Sexual Assault Program (MSU SAP) and MSU Safe Place have assisted thousands of people impacted by violence in accessing resources and support. The university has dedicated significant new resources to strengthen these programs and improve our efforts to combat sexual and relationship violence.
  • MSU strengthened its policy on mandatory reporting obligations as part of an annual review of its Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct Policy. Employees who fail to report sexual assault allegations as required by the policy are subject to discipline up to, and including, termination.
  • Interim President Engler in February 2018 convened the MSU Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct Expert Advisory Workgroup, composed of campus leaders with deep expertise in the areas of sexual assault and relationship violence. The workgroup gathers input from students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members and works closely with other organizations, committees, and units on campus. The workgroup advises the president on best practices and makes recommendations about trauma-informed policies and programs to ensure that MSU is responsive to survivors. The workgroup was expanded in June 2018 with the addition of two new members.
  • The workgroup recommended increasing the number of therapists and victim advocates for MSU SAP, which last year served more than 650 clients and provided individual therapy to nearly 300 MSU students. It is a primary resource on campus for student sexual assault survivors.
    • The workgroup collaborated with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to secure grant funding through the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) to create four full-time positions for MSU SAP, including two therapists and two victim advocates. MSU is also funding an additional full-time crisis counselor and a new clinical supervisor.
    • MSU SAP added a “canine advocate” named Justice, in April 2018 to lend emotional support to sexual assault survivors in police interviews and court proceedings.
    • A web-based service from the MSU SAP, Crisis Chat, became operational in August 2018. Accessed from the SAP’s website, staff and volunteers provide crisis intervention to help clients process emotions and thoughts during a crisis, identify their natural supports, and locate resources and options from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Upon recommendation of the workgroup, the MSU Safe Place program was shifted from Student Affairs and Services to Student Health and Wellness. The transfer will improve survivors’ experiences and access to services, and increase opportunities for referrals and partnerships between Safe Place and other Student Health and Wellness units.
  • The workgroup in July 2018 issued suggested guidelines for public statements and responses on matters related to MSU RVSM reports, lawsuits, investigations, or other related matters. The guidelines are meant to help communicators and officials avoid using hurtful terms and instead use empowering and trauma-informed language, terms, and concepts.
  • The face of MSU Title IX and civil rights efforts changed dramatically with the introduction of the Office for Civil Rights and Title IX Education and Compliance, created in March 2018 upon recommendation by the RVSM workgroup. Reporting directly to the president, the stand-alone unit consolidates university RVSM education and enforcement and is dedicated to prevention of discrimination and harassment in all forms, with a particular focus on sex and gender discrimination, relationship violence, stalking, and sexual misconduct.
    • The new office represents a 77 percent increase in number of employees dedicated to Title IX education and enforcement and includes the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE), an investigation and enforcement arm, and the Office for Prevention, Outreach and Education (POE).
      • The two offices work collaboratively, allowing complaint and enforcement data to inform prevention and education efforts, and transfer feedback from education training to those responsible for drafting and enforcing policies. The mutually informed efforts allow the university to create targeted prevention education while continuing to improve campus regulations.
    • In partnership with the offices of Academic Human Resources and Human Resources, the Title IX office launched a leadership development training program in March 2018 for MSU supervisors and administrators focused on prevention and response to harassment and discrimination. New protocols for information sharing between campus units were introduced as part of the session content.
    • MSU began its "Know More" awareness campaign in September 2018 to promote the resources available to those in the campus community who are affected by sexual misconduct, relationship violence, and stalking.
      • Thousands of the campaign's "resource wheels" were distributed throughout campus and within the East Lansing community.
      • The campaign will continue to address education and resources throughout the school year.
  • The Prevention, Outreach, and Education office was created in March 2018. It focuses on outreach, emphasizing MSU’s commitment to cultural change through increased knowledge and awareness. The office is staffed by a director, an associate director, full-time clerical support, and five prevention specialists with the intention of addressing gaps in programming.
    • Specialist focus areas are based on feedback from the MSU community and recommendations from the Husch Blackwell phase two report. The specialists include a faculty/staff education and community outreach specialist; a Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Prevention Program and workshop specialist; a bystander network specialist; a graduate and professional student outreach and education specialist; and a male engagement specialist.
    • POE hired 84 peer educators in fall 2018—up from 64 in fall 2017.
    • POE conducted student and parent orientation RVSM education programs.
    • Through its office of prevention specialists, POE provides mandatory prevention education to the entire campus community.
      • In the 2017-18 academic year, 99 percent of nearly 53,000 students, and 98 percent of MSU employees completed training on sexual assault and relationship violence prevention and reporting.
      • In the 2018-19 academic year MSU will conduct mandatory in-person RVSM prevention programming for all first-year and transfer students, and in-person bystander intervention training for all second-year students.
  • The Office of Institutional Equity was established in 2015 and charged with responding to concerns related to MSU's Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct Policy and MSU's Anti-Discrimination Policy. In 2018, OIE expanded to include two deputy directors, an additional investigator (for a total of 10 investigators), and a case manager. The office also added two resource coordinators, who are the primary points of contact for claimants and respondents throughout the investigation and adjudication processes, ensuring that individuals are connected with the supports and resources they need. The OIE:
    • reorganized to provide leadership, accountability, and to increase morale;
    • instituted consistency and transparency measures, including creation of a case processing manual, investigation report template, communications templates, and information sharing procedures that will enhance the quality and efficiency of investigations and bolster credibility with students and university partners;
    • continues to work with outside Title IX investigation firms to help eliminate case backlog;
    • hired three new investigators, a law fellow, and is adding two additional investigator positions;
    • engaged a consultant to conduct teamwork and communications training;
    • hosts a Title IX expert training group on campus for statewide training in fall semester; and
    • worked with the MSU Police Department on new protocols to ensure that police notify OIE when investigating relationship violence, stalking, or sexual misconduct complaints. 
  • The MSU Police Department has made a number of improvements in how it responds to RVSM reports and is sharing its experience and expertise.
    • MSU Police created the Center for Trauma-Informed Investigative Excellence, focused on sharing best practices in trauma-informed, victim-centered investigations of RVSM reports. The training center is led by Lt. Andrea Munford, who has earned wide praise for her work with survivors of sexual abuse.
    • MSU Police became the primary responding agency for calls for service that occur at the Eyde MSU Health Care clinics and offices to prevent gaps in incident reporting, increase their physical presence, and to conduct safety and security trainings to clinic staff. Notifications were made to the Meridian Township Police Department and Ingham County 911 for jurisdictional awareness and appropriate dispatch.
    • The police department created and entered into memorandums of understanding with other law enforcement agencies in 2015 to improve response to relationship violence and sexual misconduct on campus and in the community, to respond appropriately to students and employees who have been victimized, and to gain awareness of off-campus incidents. The agreements currently include the Michigan State Police, the Ingham County Sheriff’s Office, and police agencies in East Lansing, Lansing, and in Bath, Lansing, and Meridian townships.
  • MSU’s Office of the University Ombudsperson is a confidential, neutral, independent, and informal resource to address conflicts between students and the university, and to promote student rights and responsibilities. Created in 1967, it is the longest standing organizational ombuds office at any college or university in the country. With the appointment of a new ombudsperson in July 2018, it expanded to two full-time ombuds to better address student questions and concerns regarding university policies and procedures, including the RVSM policy.

Resources and Information

Title IX Program
Title IX Annual Report
Policy: Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct
Mandatory Reporting Guide
Larry Nassar Information
Student Claimant Resource Guide
Frequently Asked Questions