Michigan State’s Unclear Title IX Program

Misinformation has led to a disconnect at Michigan State university regarding key concepts of Their Title IX programs.

Recent Title IX reports conducted by Hush Blackwell have shown MSU is lagging to create strong awareness of campus sexual assault education and prevention. Many students at the university are uninformed of their rights and available resources if they are, or have been, sexually assaulted. mLive’s Brian McVicar writes:

“Michigan State has some work ahead of it,” said Julie Miceli, a partner at Husch Blackwell who focuses on higher education. “It has certainly made some improvements. The staff that are engaged in this work did not find any of our findings … to be of surprise.”

The report is Husch Blackwell’s second examination of MSU’s policies and programs surrounding Title IX, the federal gender anti-discrimination law that covers how educational institutions receiving federal funds must respond to reports of sexual assault.

It focused on the effectiveness of sexual assault education and prevention programs, support services and resources offered on campus, and outreach efforts tied to those programs. Researchers spoke with students, faculty and staff about their awareness and knowledge of the programs.

On Tuesday afternoon, Interim President John Engler told MSU’s Faculty Senate that he’s working to address the findings.

“We’re not only trying to fix resources that are necessary, because in some cases there are resources that aren’t there, but we’re also trying to fix how we communicate and educate and inform,” he said.

In its report, Husch Blackwell says that many participants in campus discussion groups were “unaware of, or misinformed about, key concepts relating to MSU’s Title IX program.” Student participants, for example, were familiar with the definition of sexual consent, but were “unaware of resources available to survivors of sexual misconduct and to those accused of sexual misconduct.”

At another point, the report says: “Overall, a majority of discussion group participants seem to be lacking even basic awareness about other Title IX-related support services and resources provided by MSU.”

Miceli, of Husch Blackwell, said perception and awareness of university programs is important.

“Their perception I think is actually very relevant to that question about effectiveness,” she said. ‘If they are unaware of the policy, if they are unaware of the expectations of the university with respect to their own conduct and the process by which policy violations could be looked at, the training in particular would not be effective.”

Engler said the university expects to make several changes “very quickly” based upon the Hush Blackwell report, though he did not detail specifics.

Read the full article here.

The Fierberg National Law Group and School Violence Law hope Michigan State University and other universities across the country are able to expedite the improvement of their Title IX programs and procedures.

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