Editorial: One year later, MSU still needs to be transparent
It’s been one year since The State News ran the editorial: “Controversies, crimes at MSU should not be met with silence.”
It discusses the need for transparency, the need for MSU to be forthcoming with its faults and the need for MSU to be combative when it comes to sexual assault and sexual harassment on its campus.
While some of the examples used in the editorial were more relevant then, its main point still stands strong today.
When the editorial ran, it seemed MSU’s lack of transparency couldn’t get any worse. But the university still faces the same issue as it did then — and one could argue the problem is worse now.
Multiple investigations of MSU are being conducted to determine who knew what and what went wrong regarding ex-MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse. But it’s after the investigations are completed that it will be most important for MSU to move forward with honesty and openness.
Being transparent means a lot of different things: It means providing information quickly and as soon as it becomes available, allowing administrative workings to be observed by the public eye and it means being responsive and proactive when big issues arise.
And most of all, it means being unafraid to share the facts, even if they make someone or something look unsavory.
The State News is running the editorial from more than one year ago for a reason. It’s still relevant today, despite the hopes, pleas and callings from the ones who make up the university.
One year later, we have seen little improvement. In reality, we shouldn’t have to call for it ever.
Here is the editorial from Feb. 13, 2017.
MSU has no right to be quiet about issues of sexual harassment and sexual assault, nor should MSU sit back and allow these issues to boil over until the administration is forced to address them.
Last week, two major stories of sexual harassment and sexual assault broke.
Spartan Marching Band, or SMB, Director John T. Madden sexually harassed a member of SMB and made her uncomfortable to the point where she was unable to return to campus — she is finishing her degree online. His conduct toward the student was found unwelcome behavior of sexual nature by MSU's Office of Institutional Equity.
Four hours after The State News published the Madden article, news broke that three members of the MSU football team and a staff member are under investigation for sexual assault by a Title IX consultant for the Office of Institutional Equity.
Sexual harassment and sexual assault are long-standing problems on campus. MSU must start addressing these issues from their beginnings. MSU must start taking initiative to become more transparent.
MSU needs to start playing offensively instead of defensively.
MSU spokesperson Jason Cody sent a statement to other university officials regarding Madden’s sexual harassment in October 2016 in anticipation that the story would soon surface, according to documents obtained by The State News. These documents were given to The State News from the victim of Madden's sexual harassment.
Yet, MSU did not send out a press release about the Madden incident as they did for the sexual assault investigation involving members of the football team.
When Cody was asked for comment before The State News published the Madden article, he sent us the statement found in documents dated October 2016. That is not acting offensively.
MSU should have been proactive in bringing a sexual harassment case concerning a public figure to light.
Instead, the university waited until The State News pressed them to release a statement.
On Aug. 31, 2016, Madden addressed the SMB and told them he exchanged text messages with a student, which showed “poor judgment.”
Members of the band were not specifically informed that their leader, and role model to most, had been found by OIE, to have sexually harassed one of their own. They were told by Madden that he had "violated policy on RVSM." RVSM stands for relationship violence and sexual misconduct and a violation of such can mean a number of different things at MSU.
Transparency is an important part of being a public institution. By not specifically telling SMB that its director of 27 years had sexually harassed a SMB member MSU, with knowledge or not, chose a side.
MSU, this is a failure.
As a public institution, MSU should be forthcoming, but since the Madden article was published, a State News reporter has not been allowed to talk to any personnel in MSU’s Academic Human Resources department.
In an email, Cody repeatedly refused the reporter access to these officials.
MSU, this is yet another failure.
Transparency is when members of a public institution, like MSU, are willing to talk to the media, even when their reputation might be damaged. One of the reasons the media exists is to hold public institutions accountable.
The State News cannot hold MSU accountable if we are not given access to staff and faculty.
MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon has remained silent about Madden and the sexual assault investigation.
Students and members of the MSU community deserve to have the administration and our president acknowledge a problem when it persists. When our university remains silent on issues of sexual harassment and sexual assault, it shows us it is again acting only in the defense of the brand.
More cases of sexual harassment and sexual assault will continue to come out and MSU cannot keep responding the way it currently does.
The State News calls the university’s willingness to be open into question.
While a blanket statement can’t be made, MSU is not transparent in every capacity.
And for what purpose? MSU is quick to talk about its compliance with procedures and is even quicker to talk about its achievements as a public university. But is it worth keeping the truth about incidents on campus ambiguous just to preserve its good name?
If the university was truly compliant with procedures and acted in an unconcealed way, the administration would have no problem addressing incidents concerning public figures from the start.
There would be no problem with reporters talking to MSU’s Academic Human Resources department. And there would be no problem with informing the MSU community about how OIE and other university departments handled the sexual harassment case concerning Madden.
The fact that there are problems suggests MSU’s current level of transparency is just not enough.
Community members simply cannot allow MSU to continue this way.
In addition to our concerns with MSU’s transparency, we call into question the amount of information the university keeps unseen from the members of the MSU community and the media.
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. The only way to find answers is to keep pushing for the university’s openness. The State News will continue to push for the truth and our staff urges members of the MSU community to do the same.
This is not the end of the university’s combative stance on truth seekers.
This is just the beginning.
The State News Editorial Board is currently made up of the Editor-in-chief Rachel Fradette, Managing Editor McKenna Ross, Campus Editor Madison O’Connor, City Editor Souichi Terada, Sports Editor Jonathan LeBlanc, Features Editor Sasha Zidar, Copy Chief Casey Holland, Staff Representative Marie Weidmayer and Diversity Representative Maxwell Evans.