Oct. 12, 2023: Confronting sexual harassment

Dear MSU faculty and academic and support staff members, 

Michigan State University’s mission is to advance knowledge and transform lives, and maintaining a safe, welcoming and supportive culture is key to that imperative. Sexual harassment is a threat to well-being, contrary to our values and inimical to our mission. We are resolved to confront factors in our environment that enable sexual harassment in any form. Many at MSU are contributing to this work, and all of us have a role.

Leadership and action 
Next week, I join colleagues from across the country for the Leadership Committee of the Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education, an initiative of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.  

I was proud to be appointed to the Action Collaborative’s Leadership Committee earlier this year to help create transformative policies and practices making our campuses sanctuaries of learning, growth and inclusivity for everyone, free of sexual harassment.

Deeply engaged in this important work, MSU was a founding member of the collaborative in 2018 and is an active participant in the NASEM 2023 summit next week.  

This national effort is etched into the MSU Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct Strategic Plan, which seeks to increase help-seeking and decrease RVSM through trauma-informed, intersectional programs addressing the needs of our diverse communities. Additionally, MSU’s RVSM Expert Advisory Workgroup continues to support such efforts through its institutional study and advocacy. 

RVSM work is advancing here on many fronts. We are now working with Academic Governance on a Safe Environment Task Force charged with developing guidelines and resources for units impacted by violations of MSU’s RVSM and Title IX Policy, its Anti-Discrimination Policy (gender discrimination) or by other egregious misconduct.  

We also will work closely with Academic Governance, employee unions and other stakeholders through a task force focused on establishing policies to prevent “passing the harasser,” including a process for misconduct preemployment screens and a proactive professional standards policy. 

A campus and national effort 
A landmark 2018 National Academies report, “Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering and Medicine,” sounded a clarion call for action. MSU subsequently joined 27 higher education and other organizations to form the Action Collaborative to implement relevant findings from college and university work groups. The Action Collaborative assembles academic leaders and key stakeholders to develop and share best practices targeting sexual harassment across higher education.  

MSU continues to identify and target systemic sources of sexual harassment while creating a safe and respectful working and educational environment. We are committed to the following shared goals of the Action Collaborative:  

  1. Facilitate and inform action on preventing and addressing harassment.
  2. Share and elevate evidence-based policies and strategies for reducing and preventing sexual harassment.
  3. Advance research on sexual harassment prevention and gather and apply research results across institutions.
  4. Raise awareness about sexual harassment and its consequences and motivate action to address and prevent it. 
  5. Assess progress in higher education toward reducing and preventing sexual harassment.

Reporting resources 
If you witness or are the victim of sexual harassment (or other forms of RVSM), please consider these reporting options: 

Options for sharing information or obtaining supportive services in a confidential manner, exempted from reporting during the provision of services, include: 

MSU’s commitment to creating a safe and welcoming environment for all is unwavering. As the state and nation observe Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, this university continues its work toward the goals expressed in our RVSM and 2030 university strategic plans and by the NASEM Action Collaborative. I invite everyone into the work necessary to transform the university, even as we transform lives through our academic mission.   

My best, 

Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D. (she/her/hers) 
Interim President 
MSU Research Foundation Professor