99¢ per month for 3 months
99¢ per month for 3 months

Budget: Colleges lose aid without new sex assault rules

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Michigan universities could lose 10 percent of their operational funding next year if they fail to meet new and revised requirements for Title IX campus sexual assault investigations under an advancing state House budget bill.

The House’s higher education budget committee approved Thursday a spending bill that would require universities to comply with several new Title IX reporting requirements inspired by the Larry Nassar sexual assault scandal at Michigan State University.

The budget seeks to prohibit universities from using in-house medical experts in Title IX investigations or releasing divergent investigatory reports, actions MSU took in 2014 after patient Amanda Thomashow accused Nassar of assault.

Universities could also face penalties if they seek compensation for procedures performed by medical professionals convicted of a felony or fail to use third-party investigators in claims against an employee accused on more than one occasion.

“The simple truth is, we cannot allow something this serious to be mishandled ever again,” said Rep. Kim LaSata, R-Bainbridge Township, who chairs the budget subcommittee.

The budget provisions follow a House inquiry into MSU that lawmakers said produced “alarming” findings, some of which were forwarded to the attorney general’s office for further investigation. The inquiry informed a separate bipartisan legislative package submitted to clerks Wednesday for introduction.

The new funding requirements address loopholes “that Nassar was able to find,” LaSata said. “I do believe a lot of the schools are already doing most of these things, but we want all public 15 universities to be doing the same thing.”

Similar to a Senate committee budget adopted earlier this week, the House version seeks to ensure that university officials are made aware of Title IX inquiries involving employees. It would require that such reports are shared with a universities’ governing board and certification that a member or president has reviewed each complaint.

“We are working with lawmakers in this language and don’t have immediate concerns about MSU meeting these requirements,” MSU spokeswoman Emily Guerrant said Thursday.

An MSU spokeswoman said Thursday morning she had not yet reviewed the new budget requirements and was not immediately able to comment.

The House budget would increase operations funding for Michigan’s 15 public universities by 1 percent in 2019, but schools that fail to meet the Title IX requirements could lose 10 percent.

“The goal here is to use the power of the purse to make sure that these best practices are getting implemented at all of our public institutions across the state,” said Rep. Jon Hoadley, D-Kalamazoo, minority vice chair for the committee.

Democrats supported the budget despite displeasure over total university funding. Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget proposal recommended a 2 percent increase next year, and the Senate version would increase funding by 3 percent, with the extra money going towards sexual assault prevention, mental health or campus safety programs.

The House budget would boost operations spending by just 1 percent next year, or $14.3 million, and universities could jeopardize performance funding if they raise tuition by more than 3.8 percent or $490. Funding could climb to $283.8 million for MSU, $317.7 million for the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and $200.8 million for Wayne State.

The House higher education budget now heads to the full appropriations committee for additional consideration. The House and Senate will eventually negotiate a final version with Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration, a process they hope to complete by or in June.