MSU students have called for more education for incoming freshmen, training for faculty and staff and resources for survivors in recent forums addressing sexual assault on campus.
Representatives from the U.S. Department of Education attended to hear from students during the forums, held Feb. 21 and 26, in a packed ballroom at the MSU Union.
James Moore, the director of the Clery Act Compliance Division at the Department of Education, said they came from Washington to hear directly from students.
“We can talk to all the administrators until we’re blue in the face,” Moore said. “The only way to get to the bottom of this is if the people who are closest to the situation help us.”
After introductions, attendees were split into two groups. Each voiced their concerns and proposed potential changes to campus policy on Title IX cases.
By the end of the second session, students had proposed dozens of formal and informal changes to university protocol, including:
- A semester-long course for incoming freshmen on transitioning to college.
- Expanding resources and funding to the Office of Institutional Equity, which handles Title IX cases, and counseling and psychiatry services for students.
- Expanding faculty and staff training on sexual assault awareness and suicide prevention.
In the wake of the Larry Nassar scandal and allegations of sexual assault in MSU athletics, Elizabeth Beckett, an arts and humanities senior, said students had an opportunity to be heard.
“These are really heavy subjects and difficult conversations to have,” Beckett said. “But this is a dialogue space and listening is really important.”
The forums were hosted by the Associated Students of Michigan State University, the Residence Halls Association and the Council of Graduate Students. Representatives from the U.S. Department of Education were not invited, the student government said, but decided to attend after Betsy Devos announced an investigation of MSU’s handling of sexual assault reports against former employee Larry Nassar.
The forums were one of many recent attempts to address concerns over MSU’s handling of sexual assault cases. In February, Interim University President John Engler formed a Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct Expert Advisory Workgroup. The university also announced it would cooperate with The U.S. Department of Education’s investigation.
ASMSU President Lorenzo Santavicca said attendees also demanded more transparency from the university.
“There’s been a bigger call for for the university to provide some sort of central base for information,” Santavicca said. “If [students] want to bring something to light, where do they go to find that right contact information or department?”
As of yet, ASMSU doesn’t plan to host any more forums this spring. However, Santavicca said that ASMSU will be working to implement some of the proposed changes after their election in April.
“I’m sure that our new elected leadership, come April, will have a commitment to delivering on that for students next year,” Santavicca said.