Sunday, September 26, 2021

ASMSU pushes to reform Office of Institutional Equity policy

March 18, 2019
ASMSU College of Music Representative Elizabeth Medlin gives their opinion during an ASMSU General Assembly meeting on Feb, 1, 2019.
ASMSU College of Music Representative Elizabeth Medlin gives their opinion during an ASMSU General Assembly meeting on Feb, 1, 2019. —
Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

The Associated Students of Michigan State University, or ASMSU, is advocating for changes to be made to the Office of Institutional Equity, or OIE.

OIE is responsible for reviewing student cases of discrimination and harassment under MSU’s anti-discrimination policy and policy on relationship violence and sexual misconduct. The bills passed through Thursday's academic committee push for OIE to categorize violations of Title IX policy as evidence of harm in student rights' cases, and to increase its disclosure of factors influencing investigative timelines and outcomes in these cases.

Categorizing violations of Title IX policy as evidence of harm

Introducer of the bill, College of Music representative Elizabeth Medlin, explained currently under OIE policy, evidence of a violation is categorized separately from evidence of harm. This means evidence of a violation and evidence of harm have to be proven separately in most cases, Medlin said.

“That's why people are having trouble getting their cases to go through,” she said. “It's kind of a common sense thing that if somebody sexually assaults somebody or harasses somebody ... that should be taken as evidence of harm because that is inherently harmful.”

College of Business representative Olivia Long seconded the bill and reiterated what Medlin said by saying, "If you violated something, it is also likely that you have caused harm. That’s why they're called violations.”

The bill passed unanimously through the academic committee with little discussion.

“I wasn’t sure why this wasn’t already standing policy, so we decided to try to get them to make it standing policy,” Medlin said.

Transparency within OIE student rights cases

Following the bill's unanimous passing, Medlin introduced another bill advocating for transparency by OIE within student rights' cases.

By policy, OIE specifies a 90-day window for completion of cases, and extension of this timeline is merited by the complexity of each case. However, Medlin argued that many times, it is difficult for parties to understand if and why this time period has changed, which in turn, “causes a lot of confusion about the process.”

“I believe that it would be beneficial for people that are involved in cases to request that information on a case-by-case basis and just improve the transparency through the process because right now, communication is a problem,” Medlin said.

Lyman Briggs representative Ben Horne seconded the bill, saying, “People have lots of issues with OIE and this is basically the main one where the timeline of investigations is a huge issue.”

The bill passed unanimously with no discussion.

“This formal declaration of ‘hey this is an issue let’s work to fix it’ is, I think, pretty common sense,” Horne said. “The more trust that students have in OIE, the more that they will report and … (that will bring) more justice for students on our campus.”

Both bills will be discussed and voted on by the general assembly March 21 in the International Center.

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