ASMSU discusses Title IX revisions, student concerns
MSU Title IX Coordinator Jessica Norris spoke at the Associated Students of MSU's, or ASMSU's, general assembly meeting to discuss policy revisions and address students' concerns.
Norris's appearance comes as individuals across the United States grapple with allegations from high-profile women that director Harvey Weinstein committed rape and sexual assault.
Most of the revisions update guidelines for university employees on preventing or addressing sexual assault and harassment.
“So, we did implement sanction guidelines both for employees and students that outlines the process for determining sanctions and demystifying that, and it kind of makes that process clear with what the guidelines are and possibly the sanctions," Norris said. "We also clarified the roles that different individuals and offices play within the office, and added information on how to determine from that. We clarified information on consequences for failure to report if you’re a mandatory reporter who doesn’t file a report when they should. We’re always taking action on those things and addressing it through assistance.”
Norris elaborated briefly on the subject of mandatory reporting.
“We also expanded our discussion of mandatory reporting and expectations where if an employee is witnessing an ongoing crime, and our expectation that they would report that," Norris said. "Then we added a glossary and updated some definitions to make the policy more inclusive.”
Norris took questions from ASMSU members, including one from Vice President for Finance and Operations Dan Iancio.
“The one question I have, the one disconnect, is why isn’t every student required to go through SARV training?" Iancio asked.
Norris said she believes that requiring the training would decrease participation in it.
“So, when we look at our education and prevention programs in terms of required or not required, I think you have to look at it more broadly than just that dynamic," Norris said. "When we look at the SARV program, our participation rate is over 90%, which is similar to the required online training. So, making something required doesn’t necessarily require commitment or participation. So, when we’ve looked at that we considered it. We felt the participation rates were sort of high that there’s actually concern that if we do make that have a consequence similar to the online training that it actually could detract from people participating.”
Norris also addressed the new Title IX guidance, which was recently introduced by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, and assured students that it would not change the quality of due process at MSU.
"The new guidance that came out didn’t prompt any changes to our policy at MSU, and I think that when we look at our policy institutionally over the past several years, we work really hard to blend RVSM policies into investigation procedures such that — you know, there have been recommendations whether it’s the American College Association of Trial Lawyers, it’s law professors, it’s the American Bar Association, they have all the recommendations over years surrounding the issue of due process and encouraging schools to build that into their process," Norris said. "So, there was room for building due process in under the prior “Dear Colleague” letter, and we did so, and that continues through today.”
Norris also offered an update on the process of MSU's Title IX review, which is being performed by the Husch-Blackwell law firm.
“So, right now as we continue through the fall semester, we are engaged in our Title IX external review, and if you aren’t familiar, we had hired a law firm, Husch-Blackwell, and they are engaged with looking at the policy comprehensively from a compliance lense," Norris said. "They’re also looking at our education and prevention programs, our support and advocacy services, and our outreach and awareness efforts.”
Similarly, the ASMSU-hosted "It's On Us Week," which included anti-sexual assault education and programming, will begin next week.
“It’s On Us Week is next week. There’s been a lot of planning and thought that has gone into these events. Specifically with the Student Leadership Institute, I think it would be really beneficial to have all of you there if you’re able and don’t have class. There’s going to be a lot of opportunity for in-depth discussion with a national expert on bystander intervention and just what we can be doing as student leaders to change our culture on campus.”