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"We are well aware there's much work to do" - MSU cracking down on inappropriate behavior

Posted at 8:58 AM, Jan 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-29 08:58:03-05

Michigan State University President Samuel Stanley announced changes to the Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct (RVSM) policies on campus that would crackdown on inappropriate behavior.

Elizabeth Abdnour is the former Title IX investigator for MSU and she says these policies are extremely important for student life.

“Well, they can really impact your time on campus, especially if you experience unwelcome sexual conduct from somebody,” Abdnour explained.

Stanley indicated that campus officials are planning to use old reports of sexual misconduct that didn’t result in violations but were decidedly inappropriate to craft policies that will do more to control bad behavior.

“Some examples I can think of that fall under that umbrella would be if there was some sort of inappropriate conduct that people found to be harassing or distressing but didn’t rise to the level of being severe or pervasive,” Abdnour explained.

Students and faculty that were around at the time of the Larry Nassar trial say they’re seeing improvements but that the university needs to create more accountability when it comes to relationship and sexual violence issues.

“I think obviously that culture is still kind of reeling after everything with Dr. Nassar and everything like that,” MSU junior Ben Tibbets said.

Hannah Reback was a freshman on campus when the sexual assault saga that launched national headlines played out.

“It definitely was very sad that that was the school I was a part of and I think Michigan State can do a better job in the future addressing it,” Reback said.

Stanley’s announcement opened by acknowledging the survivors of sexual violence stating that their experiences remind university leaders that “MSU failed survivors and our community.”

“We are well aware that there’s much work to do at the university to create that culture that we know we need to put in place so that all feel welcome at our university and feel safe,” MSU Deputy Spokesperson Dan Olsen said.

Some students are happy that university leaders are taking up the issue.

“I think the new administration under Dr. Stanley is doing a really good job with talking about it. I’d say we get monthly or every two months we get emails talking about relationship violence and stuff like that so I think it’s improving,” Tibbets said.

Thursday morning the Lansing State Journal reported at least five of the faculty members who violated the current policy still hold positions on campus.

“It definitely should be taken more seriously. I just feel like the faculty need to be role models to students and we need to hold people accountable when they’re doing things like this,” MSU freshman Marta Vaitkaitis said.

Olsen says the new policies will increase accountability for faculty.

“The faculty responsibility policy has a line – an aspirational sentence I would say – to behave collegial with one another. But, it doesn’t define what collegial means. So this new policy will better articulate how someone needs to behave,” Olsen explained.

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