MSU creates office for sex assault complaints

The Michigan State University sign. (File photo)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan State University is creating a new department to handle campus harassment complaints, including sexual assault complaints.

“What can universities, or what should universities, be doing to better handle the investigative processes when these harassment and discrimination complaints come forward?” MSU spokesman Jason Cody said.

It’s a question many universities across the nation are asking, including MSU.

MSU decided to start talking to Title IX experts across the nation about what it could do to better to handle complaints of sexual assaults on campus, and has now decided to create a new office to investigate complaints of harassment.

>>PDF: MSU 2014 Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Policies and Programs Task Force

“This new office is now going to be responsible for handling all discrimination complaints that the university may receive,” Cody said. “That will include complaints made under Title IX such as sexual harassment and sexual assault relationship violence.”

Between August 2011 and August 2014, MSU received 174 reports of sexual misconduct involving students.

>>PDF: MSU’s 2013-2014 report on sexual misconduct

MSU, as well as Grand Valley State University and the University of Michigan, are under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights over their handling of sexual abuse complaints.

Earlier this year, Western Michigan University announced it is changing its policy to make it easier for students to report cases of sexual assault. The changes will go into effect this fall.

MSU said the creation of the office won’t change how complaints are investigated, but will beef up the resources the university devotes to those investigations.

“What it will change is we will be able to respond to these sorts of complaints in a more timely manner,” Cody said.

The new department will have a director, two senior investigators, three to four investigators and administrative staff — an increase in resources, Cody said.

“As this issue, rightfully, has gained more attention nationwide and universities are rethinking about the  ways they can respond to these complaints,” Cody said. “We thought it just made sense to pull that function out of the current office it’s in and create a new office where that’s the sole thing this office will be focused on, is going to be handling these decimation complaints.”

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