Two days after the release of a report critical of Michigan State University’s sexual assault education and prevention programs, MSU is creating new oversight office and expanding staff dealing with Title IX issues, the university announced Friday.
“We are greatly expanding our capabilities to investigate reported civil rights and Title IX incidents and deliver effective prevention, education and outreach programs,” MSU Interim President John Engler said in a press release.
“We heard the feedback loud and clear and are taking immediate steps to be more efficient and effective,” he said.
The new Office of Civil Rights and Title IX Education and Compliance will oversee the Office of Institutional Equity, which investigates civil rights and Title IX complaints, and the Title IX Prevention, Outreach and Education Office, responsible for prevention, education and outreach efforts.
Jessica Norris, currently MSU’s Title IX director, is being promoted to associate vice president for the new executive office.
In addition, 12 new positions are being created, mostly in the areas of prevention, outreach and education.
There will be a national search for a replacement of Norris in her old job, and new positions also include additional investigators and a case manager to address bottlenecks in the investigation process.
New service coordinator positions will directly address community concerns about accessing support services during the investigations.
The move comes two days after MSU released a prelimary report from the law firm Husch Blackwell, which was hired to look at its Title IX compliance.
The report said MSU has struggled to build trust and create awareness of campus sexual assault education and prevention programs, resulting in significant “misunderstandings” and “misinformation” among students, faculty and staff.
The report also found that many feel there’s a lack of “clear accountability” in the university’s Title IX program, and others were unsure “who was really in charge” between the Office of Institutional Equity – which oversees the Title IX program – and MSU’s senior leadership.
MSU students ‘misinformed’ about Title IX programs, report says
“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 in the press release.
To help finalize the report, the Sexual Violence Advisory Committee and Husch Blackwell are hosting Campus Climate Forums on March 25 and 26. Participants will have the opportunity to provide reactions to the preliminary report and additional feedback on the programs, efforts and services to the external review team. Click here for information about the events.
The issue of sexual assault has dominated the conversation on campus in the wake of the Larry Nassar sex-abuse scandal.
Nassar was a MSU faculty member and a physician at the university’s Sport Medicine Clinic for 20 years until he was fired in September 2016 after reports emerged that he had molested scores of women under the guise of medical treatment. He’s expected to spend the rest of his life in prison after being sentenced in federal court for possession of child pornography and sexually penetrating women and girls in Ingham and Eaton counties.