Four women file Title IX lawsuit against MSU, aim to bring attention to national issue
Why this matters
Four women have filed a lawsuit against MSU for its mishandling of their sexual assault cases.
Four women filed a Title IX civil lawsuit against MSU, President Lou Anna K. Simon, and Vice President of Student Services Denise Maybank over complaints about how their sexual assault cases were handled during their time as students at MSU. The lawsuit, filed Wednesday morning, is seeking economic damages, but no dollar amount was specified in the copy of the case file.
Of the four, two women were named. Emily Kollaritsch, who said she is a fifth-year senior, was an outspoken advocate for sexual assault survivor's rights and resources during her time on campus. Her case, detailed in a State News investigation, took 285 days for the university to resolve, far exceeding the time limits set by the federal government and MSU's own self-governing guidelines.
The attorney for the plaintiffs, Alex Zalkin, said while he cannot ask MSU to fire officials, he is hoping this lawsuit will cause administration to take sexual assault seriously.
“Title IX is federal legislation that requires campuses that receive federal funding to act promptly and effortly (sic) in response to a report of sexual assault," Zalkin said. "And here Michigan State felt woefully short of that standard.”
The lawsuit cites multiple findings from the Office for Civil Rights that MSU mishandled sexual assault complains, and also alleged Sexual Assault Program coordinator Shari Murgattroyd discouraged Kollaritsch from reporting further harassment from her sexual assailant.
The MSU Board of Trustees and Kappa Sigma fraternity are also named as defendants in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also details the events which defendant and advertising student Shayna Gross said happened to her while visiting the Kappa Sigma fraternity house on campus. Gross explained her case took nearly 485 days and two investigations, and said MSU's investigative process "has caused me harm and delivered me absolutely no justice."
During the press conference, it was revealed the same alleged assailant assaulted both Gross and Kollaritsch.
“The United States Department of Education’s Office (for) Civil Rights’ report found that MSU mishandled at least two student sexual assault cases," Gross said during the conference. "I’m here to let you know that there are more. Michigan State University traded my safety for (my assailant's) diploma.”
In the third case, a woman alleged MSU lost her medical records following her sexual assault and contacted her months later, ruling there were no findings of sexual assault.
A fourth case, in which an alleged sexual assailant was expelled from MSU and allowed to return to attend graduation, was also detailed.
No court dates have been set in the lawsuit, but will be made out of the U.S District Court in Grand Rapids.
Read through a copy of the lawsuit here: