Michigan State University has released its second annual Title IX report, detailing relationship violence and sexual misconduct complaints reported during the 2016-2017 school year.
For a second year, MSU saw a big increase in the number of complaints reported throughout the year. Seven hundred eighteen incidents were reported to MSU’s office of Institutional Equity for the last school year, up from 461 reports the previous year.
MSU Title IX Director Jessica Norris says the increase comes from more awareness about the issue on campus, leading to students, faculty and staff to be more likely to make a report. She says it does not necessarily mean an increase in the number of actual sexual misconduct incidents.
“We really believe this is reflective of our efforts to continue to engage the community around this issue … to encourage reporting,” Norris said. “We also feel like that idea is supported through data that has been collected by our Office for Health Promotion, where they participate in the national college health assessment.”
Of the 718 incidents reported, just 74 were formally investigated. In a press release, MSU said of the 625 reports that didn’t get investigated, 451 were because the complainant “did not wish to move forward or did not respond to investigators.” Another 101 were cases where MSU did not have jurisdiction; 50 cases “did not meet the standard set in the RVSM policy”; and 23 were resolved in a different administrative department of the University.
You can read MSU’s full 2016-2017 Title IX report here.
MSU has also made progress in shortening the time it takes to complete formal investigations, down to an average of 80 days for the 2016-2017 school year. Norris credits the addition of staff and resources to her office.
After U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos rescinded Obama-era guidelines for how universities should handle sexual assault, Norris said the new guidelines outlined so far haven’t led to any changes in policy.
“Certainly any new guidance coming out of the Department of Education would be among the things we would look at and consider, but based on the guidance that was put out, I don’t see anything that is going to prompt any sort of knee-jerk reaction,” Norris said.
MSU is in the process of reviewing its Title IX program to improve how it addresses sexual assault on campus. Norris says the first phase of that review process could be completed by the end of the year.