MSU: 461 reports of sexual misconduct policy violations

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

There were 461 incidents reported last year under Michigan State University’s relationship violence and sexual misconduct policy — more than double the 201 reported incidents the previous year, according to a first-of-its-kind report released Thursday by the university.

President Lou Anna K. Simon said she doesn’t believe the increased numbers are a reflection of more sexual assault on campus.

“We believe the increase in reports is a result of efforts at MSU to raise awareness, rather than an increase in incidents,” Simon said in a statement. “This is consistent with data from the National College Health Assessment that shows MSU students have the highest level of awareness regarding sexual assault and relationship violence among all participating universities.”

MSU’s report comes the day before Michigan first lady Sue Snyder will host the second annual summit to combat campus sexual assaults.

It also comes a year after a federal investigation into how MSU handled sexual assault complaints, which concluded the university had mishandled two cases and did not have proper protocols in place to investigate other complaints.

Incidents include sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, relationship violence, stalking and retaliation.

Of the 461 reports at MSU, only a fraction were formally investigated by the university: 66. Of those, the university found 38 cases with a violation and imposed sanctions, ranging from dismissals to probation. Meanwhile, 17 are under investigation.

MSU did not formally investigate 378 reports because complainants in 289 of the cases either did not wish to move forward or would not follow-up with investigators; the university did not have jurisdiction in 50 of the cases and 27 cases did not meet the standard set in the university’s policy. There were also 12 reports that were resolved through administrative processes outside of the university’s Office for Institutional Equity.

Jessica Norris, MSU’s Title IX coordinator, said university efforts are partly to explain for the increase in reports.

Among the campus’ improvements include a doubling of the number of investigators, facilitating nearly 40 in-person campus training programs and dramatically cutting the length of time of investigations.

Even so, Norris said more work needs to be done to improve the timeliness of processes while also assuring fairness.

“The improvements highlighted in the report are evidence of MSU’s ongoing commitment to creating and maintaining a campus community that reflects our Spartan values,” Norris said.