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Editorial: For student safety, Maybank shouldn't be able to overturn sexual assault cases

February 26, 2016

It's no secret that MSU's policies of handling sexual assault need revision, which is why in the past few months, MSU has announced numerous changes to the ways sexual assault is handled on campus.

But while some things are changing, others remain alarmingly the same.

Under MSU's current policy, students who are accused of sexual assault go through a series of hearings to determine guilt. And at the end of this process, one person holds the power to uphold or overturn a decision — Vice President of Student Affairs and Services Denise Maybank.

We, The State News editorial board, do not believe Maybank should be given such power.

It has become increasingly clear to The State News that Denise Maybank's actions completely undermine student and campus safety.

This past summer, Maybank allowed a student who was dismissed from the university for violating sexual misconduct policies to return to witness graduation, while his alleged victim was still on campus. This is unacceptable.

This fall, Maybank was specifically named in a lawsuit filed by four women who claimed the university mishandled their sexual assault cases. In one instance, a survivor waited 285 days — well past the deadlines set by the federal government and MSU itself — for a conclusion to her investigation. This is unacceptable.

Most recently, Maybank chose to overturn a decision to expel a student and instead suspended him for two years, even though he had been found responsible for policy violations in two separate cases of harassment. This is unacceptable. 

Whether through incompetence or neglect, Maybank has contributed to a campus climate that allows sexual predators to return and stay on campus.  

Even MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon has said the argument for Maybank's decision to allow a previously expelled student on campus for graduation was "debatable."

If our own university president cannot undoubtedly trust her own employee to make the right decision when it comes to handling sexual assault, how can we, the students?

We can't. And we don't.

With such a checkered past and history of denying justice to sexual assault survivors, the university should not jeopardize student safety by leaving such powerful decisions in incapable hands. 

If MSU truly wants to create a safe campus where survivors can count on a timely, fair system of review, administration should take this power from Maybank and establish a system with more checks and balances to stop unfair and unsafe decisions from being made in this department.

If Maybank truly wants to serve her students by hearing their concerns and protecting them, she will give up this power. 

We have all heard of the changes administration has said it will make when it comes to helping sexual assault survivors. But in this case, actions speak much louder than words. 

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