February 25, 2014 at 2:42 pm

U.S. investigating Michigan State's handling of student sex assaults

Michigan State University is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights for how it handles sexual assaults, and federal officials will be on campus to meet with students on Wednesday and Thursday.

It is the second Michigan university to face an investigation into compliance with Title IX, the federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sex including sexual harassment, assault and violence. Earlier Tuesday, the University of Michigan responded to a similar investigation by federal officials.

MSU spokesman Kent Cassella said the investigation will also examine MSU’s overall compliance with Title IX.

“MSU takes all allegations of sexual assault seriously and has a process in place to respond to such allegations,” Cassella said. “The university has consistently worked with its governance system and the Department of Education to ensure that its process is consistent with past and recent OCR guidance to institutions of higher education regarding the handling of sexual assault and other Title IX complaints on campus.”

Cassella added that the university is cooperating fully with the investigation.

“While federal law and privacy concerns prevent MSU from fully discussing specifics, we have a comprehensive record of the actions we took that supports the university’s position that we acted appropriately,” Cassella said.

Jim Bradshaw, spokesman for the national education department, said officials from the Office for Civil Rights will host student focus groups on campus this week and holding open office hours to obtain feedback on the campus climate regarding sexual harassment, sexual assault and sexual violence.

The schedule includes these meetings Wednesday at Olds Hall, Room 203: 9-10 a.m., SARV Peer Educators focus group, Sexual Assault & Relationship Violence Prevention program; 10-11 a.m., female student athletes focus group; 11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m., SAP Counselors focus group, sexual assault program; 1:30-2:30 p.m., SACI focus group, Sexual Assault Crisis Intervention (student group); 2:45-3:45 p.m., band members, and 4-5 p.m., LGBT groups.

These meetings are scheduled Wednesday at Olds Hall, Room 209: 10-11 a.m., male student athletes focus group; 11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m., sorority members focus group; 1:30-2:30 p.m., MSU Women’s Alliance, and 2:45-3:45 p.m., fraternity members. Also Wednesday, resident hall advisers will meet with federal representatives from 6-7 p.m. at C101 Wonders Hall.

These meetings are scheduled Thursday: 8 a.m.-1 p.m., open office hours for students with OCR staff in Room 112, Olds Hall, and 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m., open office hours for students with OCR staff in Room 13, Olds Hall.

(313) 222-2024