Letter from MSU President: “Sexual violence has no place at Michigan State University”

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EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – In an email sent on Wednesday, Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon told members of the MSU community that work is being done to step up efforts in creating a safer campus environment.

The letter comes as the end of the school year approaches, Simon reminding the MSU community that they are likely to continue seeing media coverage on stories involving former MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, or allegations made against the MSU football program.

“On behalf of Michigan State University, I recognize the pain sexual violence causes and express how deeply we regret any time someone in our community experiences it,” she wrote.

But Simon said she wanted to update the MSU community on the steps the university is taking to combat the problem.

The letter says that a review of the MSU HealthTeam policies and practices began in fall 2016 and completed in March 2017.

Officials have strengthened policies regarding informed consent and the role of exam-room chaperones. Those policies went into effect April 15.

“We are now reviewing national experts to conduct a third-party quality and safety assurance review as we continue our commitment to achieving the highest patient care and safety standards across all MSU clinics,” Simon said.

According to the letter, the review is expected to begin this summer.

The letter also says that MSU is among 62 leading university who are part of the Association of American Universities. The group published a report Wednesday, showing the actions it’s members are taking to prevent and respond to sexual assault and sexual misconduct.

“Based on the results of a new survey, the report shows AAU universities, including MSU, are making significant improvements and devoting substantial resources to efforts that address the issue,” Simon said.

Simon acknowledged the courage of all victims of sexual violence who have come forward to share their story with police.

The president also reminded community members that resources are available for all those who have experienced abuse, providing a link to MSU’s Title IX website.

“Sexual violence has no place at Michigan State University,” she said.

Simon also laid out bullet points of steps the university has taken over the past few years to create a safe and supportive environment including the following:

  • Introducing and revising our Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct policy
  • Creating the Office of Institutional Equity in 2015 to coordinate and direct MSU’s Title IX program and investigate reported incidents
  • Devoting more resources and personnel to our Sexual Assault Program
  • Requiring all students to complete an annual online training program
  • Requiring all employees to complete an online training program biennially

She goes on to say that groups on campus including The Sexual Violence Advisory Committee, the Violence Free Communities committee, Faculty Senate and student leaders such as ASMSU and COGS are playing key roles in combatting this issue as well.

“The Sexual Violence Advisory Committee, the Violence Free Communities committee, Faculty Senate and student leaders such as ASMSU and COGS are playing key roles, and we are grateful for their commitment,” Simon said. “Our continuous effort to educate and inform is resulting in an increased number of reports; that is a positive thing, an indicator of a culture that encourages reporting.”

“While I take some comfort in the strong collective work of our community, we must do more. Sexual assault still plagues our campus and society at large. Creating change requires focused and meaningful work, a dedication to continuous learning and improvement, and the discipline to sustain our efforts. MSU is committed to taking steps now and over the long run.”

Simon also said more will be done to revamp the university’s Title IX program.

“Given all the issues surrounding sexual assault, I feel it is prudent to accelerate the timeline for this review. I will be engaging independent experts to conduct a top-to-bottom review of our Title IX program this fall. The review will allow us to assess our progress and identify opportunities to refine and build on this work for the future.”

“Sexual assault takes many forms, and as we have seen with the investigation into Nassar, it impacted the lives of his patients whose trust he abused.”

She goes on to say that while “determined” sexual predators and pedophiles are difficult to detect and stop, MSU will do “all we can not only to safeguard our patients but also to continue to protect youth who come to our campus in all capacities.”

The university president also said that it continues to build on a programmatic effort that began in 2013.

“We are introducing a revised and enhanced youth protection policy and additional education. It is our moral obligation to protect all young people on our campus, in all circumstances,” she said. “I recognize sexual assault and child sexual abuse are societal issues; however, we cannot dismiss them as insurmountable.”

“We are committed to continuing our work to improve our response, education, and prevention efforts at MSU. We are determined to be better tomorrow than we are today.”

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