In recent years, certain actions implemented by the MSU administration have attempted to silence the student voice across campus. With either a negative or non-existent response to other student campaigns, these trends have continued to limit student involvement as well as emphasize the evident disconnect between students and university administration. However, to the dismay of the university, a new type of problematic silence in regard to sexual assault has been brought to public attention.
As a requirement, the university sent out a blast email with the vague subject line “Letter To the MSU Community.” Almost comically, my Michigan State email account labeled this as “junk.” Regardless, attached to this email, and not specifically addressed in the email body, was a document describing a new “collaboration” between the university and the Department of Education, as worded by the university, to measure the university’s effective “heightened awareness of student safety, with special emphasis on sexual violence.” Oppositely and unannounced, this deceptive opportunity to meet with the OCR was a preliminary step in the investigation of MSU.
Furthermore, the email attachment exhaustively lists any and all resources available to students as a sort of test preparation for the students attending the “collaborative” meeting. Not surprisingly, I, among various other students who met with the OCR, have been unaware of these resources until the email due to the lack of promotion by MSU.
Unfortunately, the only advertised form of sexual violence education known to most students is the SARV program, which is carelessly “enforced” as a “mandatory” program for freshmen. However, this is a problematic statement within itself. In a culture present on our campus that promotes the idea of “don’t get raped” instead of “don’t rape,” sexual assault education should not be limited to only freshmen. This is an issue that prevails not only on campus with MSU students, but off campus in student housing, downtown bars and even campus-sponsored apartments, which focuses predominantly on upperclassmen.
With a statistic stating one in four students will be sexually assaulted by the time they graduate, the demand for continuous sexual assault education as well as promotion for on-campus resources should be happily endorsed by the university. Our lack of knowledge concerning the now limited resources provided on campus only further emphasizes disconnect between students and the administration.
As a junior, the past three years spent at MSU have only highlighted the inherent problems with disassociating campus policies from the student voice. The exclusionary actions of the administration have degraded the students to an image of walking dollar signs. This image has been exemplified in the university’s cavalier attempt of combatting sexual assault; instead of an honest approach to the issue, Michigan State will choose to defend its reputation of being a respectable university even at the expense of students’ safety. For a university that promotes standing together, our silence has never pushed us farther apart.
Lauren Gann, Supply chain management junior, Representing MSU Students United, firstname.lastname@example.org