Culture and Community on Campus and Beyond
There is no question we have a culture problem at MSU.
The atrocities of Dr. Larry Nassar simply shed a light on a problem that has existed at Michigan State for years. As a young woman from Michigan’s thumb, I arrived on campus in 2005 eager to expand my world. Michigan State was the only school I applied to, and I was so proud to have been accepted.
At freshman orientation the young women in our class were told that, statistically, one-quarter of us were going to be sexually assaulted on campus. Later that year, I became that 1 in 4. There was, and still is, a stretch of sidewalk along the Red Cedar river that students know as “the rape trail.” Sadly, it earned this name long before I arrived on campus and its notoriety continues today. Longevity of this type is not something we should be tolerant of at Michigan’s largest land-grant university. We must do better.
I believe the only way to successfully tackle sexual assault is from from all angles. An important part of the solution is for MSU to create a cross-functional team that meets regularly, including student-led sexual assault prevention and response groups, on-campus counseling, MSU and local law enforcement, the Title IX office and the State of Michigan Title IX ombudsman. The only way to prevent sexual assault is with training and predicting future outcomes based upon behavior pattern analyses, and these would be core responsibilities of this team.
Student training must go far beyond watching videos and answering questions. Training should be comprehensive and include conversations around sexual health and safety, prevention techniques and bystander training to help students diffuse situations without putting themselves in danger.
However, the culture problems at Michigan State go beyond protecting students from sexual assault. Alumni, and more importantly, current students, do not trust the Board of Trustees to drive the university in the right direction. They are acutely aware that telling the Board about any concerns will only serve to cause headaches and not actual change.
I believe that students should be engaged in creating the solution. The University has a responsibility to protect students, provide them a safe and stable educational environment, and ensure that they have all
the resources they need to be successful.