MSU launches new civil rights, Title IX office

The Detroit News

Amid intense scrutiny over its handling of sexual assault complaints in the Larry Nassar scandal, Michigan State University is launching a new Office of Civil Rights and Title IX Education and Compliance, Interim President John Engler announced Friday.

MSU interim President John Engler

The announcement comes weeks after U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced an investigation of the university’s probe of Nassar related to complaints under Title IX, the federal law aimed at protecting against sex discrimination in schools.

A Detroit News investigation found reports of sexual misconduct by the disgraced doctor reached at least 14 school representatives in the two decades before his arrest.

MSU now is being investigated by the NCAA, the Michigan House and state Attorney General Bill Schuette, in addition to the Department of Education.

The new Office of Civil Rights and Title IX Education and Compliance is set oversee the Office of Institutional Equity, or OIE, responsible for investigating civil rights and Title IX complaints, as well as the Title IX Prevention, Outreach and Education Office, responsible for prevention, education and outreach efforts, MSU representatives said in a statement Friday.

The new office also works with MSU groups that offer crisis and advocacy services to survivors of sexual assault and relationship violence, according to the release.

“We are greatly expanding our capabilities to investigate reported civil rights and Title IX incidents and deliver effective prevention, education and outreach programs to foster broader culture change at MSU,” Engler said. “We heard the feedback loud and clear and are taking immediate steps to be more efficient and effective.”

With the new office, Jessica Norris, MSU’s Title IX director, is being promoted to associate vice president, and 12 new positions are being created, mostly in the areas of prevention, outreach and education.

“This new office will go a long way in providing additional clarity within our community about responsibility for civil rights and Title IX-related activities,” Norris said. “Not only will the office’s structure better align our university with national recommendations, it also helps simplify the internal coordination needed to take holistic, strategic approaches to these important issues.”

The office’s creation also followed a law firm recommending that MSU boost mental health services and do more to promote campus awareness of education and prevention programs, outreach and awareness efforts, as well as crisis and advocacy services. The report from Kansas City-based Husch Blackwell is the second phase of a review of MSU’s Title IX program. The firm’s first report, issued in November, found that the program met federal legal requirements but could be improved.

Meanwhile, to help finalize the Husch Blackwell report, the Sexual Violence Advisory Committee is co-hosting campus climate forums on Sunday and Monday. More information is available here.