Jan. 15, 2021: Eradicating RVSM remains key priority for MSU

NOTE: This letter refers to events that may trigger traumatic memories for members of our community. Resources and assistance are available through the Center for Survivors, MSU Safe Place, Counseling and Psychiatric Services and the Employee Assistance Program.


MSU Faculty, Staff and Students, 

As we begin another spring semester at Michigan State University, we pause to remember that three years ago, 204 courageous women stepped forward over nine days in Ingham and Eaton counties to share their stories of sexual abuse. Their powerful testimonies continue to remind us that MSU failed survivors and our community. Their stories and voices challenge us to create culture change at MSU, and we know we have more work still to do.  

We all want a campus climate that is safe, inclusive and one we are proud of — a climate that is vigilant in preventing sexual misconduct, one that better protects survivors and one that is inclusive of all people. We must build a climate in which all members of our campus feel emotionally and physically safe and respected.

Critical to our goal of creating a safe and supportive campus is greater accountability for employees found in violation of MSU policies. On this point, we expect the Lansing State Journal to publish a story in the coming days that likely will include references to inequities in our disciplinary processes for employees with findings of violations of our Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct (RVSM) policies. We are sharing this with you not to excuse past decisions; rather, we want you to know the actions we have taken the past few years and continue to take will improve our consistency and accountability. Changes have been made, and more work will be completed soon to address inequities in the disciplinary outcomes and further strengthen our disciplinary actions.

One significant contributing factor to lasting change has been the university’s commitment to new leadership. From ourselves as president, provost and executive vice presidents, to the leaders of Academic Human Resources, General Counsel Office, the Office for Civil Rights and Title IX Education and Compliance, along with many others, the university has appointed new leaders who are committed to a campuswide focus on and dedication to consistency and accountability.

Over the last three years, actions contributing to lasting change include:

  • Implementation of a new RVSM and Title IX Policy that provides clarity and supportive measures that increase equity, accountability and transparency in the Title IX process and improves timeliness of the investigative and hearing processes.
  • Establishment of the Office of Audit, Risk and Compliance to ensure the university improves and maintains its commitment to the highest standards of ethics, integrity and responsibility.
  • Establishment of the Prevention, Outreach and Education Department within the Office for Civil Rights and Title IX Education and Compliance, which is dedicated to promoting safety and educating members of the campus community about sexual assault and relationship violence, eliminating violence on campus and empowering Spartans to become advocates for a nonviolent community.
  • Establishment of the RVSM Expert Advisory Workgroup of trusted leaders within the institution to be a resource to the MSU community by sharing knowledge and expertise on RVSM issues; gathering input, suggestions and ideas from the campus community to ensure diverse viewpoints are represented in all decision-making; and making recommendations for improving policies, protocols and programs that support a safe and supportive campus.
  • Mandatory RVSM training for all students each year. Require leadership, faculty and staff to complete training every two years.
  • Revision of the university’s Emeritus Policy to allow for revocation in cases in which behavior occurring or discovered after being awarded emeritus status is inconsistent with the expectations of the university.  
  • Strengthening protections in MSU’s Travel and Lodging Policy to explicitly prohibit employees and students from sharing a room.
  • Improvements to the university’s Consensual Amorous or Sexual Relationships with Students Policy to ban consensual amorous or sexual relationships between undergraduates and faculty or academic staff.
  • Mandatory Diversity, Equity and Inclusion education and development for all employees and students that introduces our campus community to core DEI principles and establishes a baseline understanding of the importance of these principles in creating an inclusive and respectful campus for all.
  • Increasing support services for survivors through programs like the Sexual Assault Healthcare Program and a crisis chat that is staffed by trained volunteers in sexual assault crisis intervention.
  • Increasing patient safety and quality of care, MSU created the Office of the Executive Vice President for Health Sciences,aligning the university’s health colleges, clinical practices and student wellness programs. This improves collaboration in the health care programs and supports an accountable health care culture in addition to increasing research opportunities and fostering more cost-efficient clinical practices.
  • A more comprehensive list can be found on the Our Commitment website.

Each of these actions moves the university in the right direction by creating consistency and equity within our disciplinary and accountability systems. They continue us on the path of institutional culture change, but our work is not complete with these actions. More are imminent, including:  

  1. The university is undertaking a historical and comprehensive review of faculty and staff who have RVSM violations for potential revocation of emeritus status. Academic Human Resources will complete this comprehensive review and provide recommendations to the provost no later than June 1, 2021. The process to revoke emeritus status was recently changed, as mentioned above, so this is the next step.
  2. The university will impanel a task force to develop a framework for consistency on disciplinary actions and outcomes across all employees based on new and identified best practices. That task force will provide recommendations to the provost and executive vice president for administration for a common framework by June 1, 2021.
  3. The university is pressing ahead with academic governance on the issuance of a Professional Standards Policy for faculty and academic staff. Additionally, the university will incorporate training into its existing framework for unit leaders on how to deal with behavioral issues that run counter to those expectations in the Professional Standards Policy.

In addition to the actions outlined above, we are looking closely at instances in which there was “no finding” of a university policy violation. There are cases in which the “no finding” of a policy violation is accurate and fair but the behavior was concerning, inappropriate and inconsistent with the university’s values. These instances of concerning behavior must be addressed to promote a healthy and safe work and educational environment for all at MSU. To that end, we are putting systems and procedures into place to address these cases on a long-term and consistent basis.

Leaders, policies and people drive change. We intend to hold our leaders to high standards and ask them to hold others to these standards as well. We also call upon the individuals and communities from throughout our great university to join in this commitment. We know people must be comfortable speaking out, that inappropriate behavior must be called out and systems put in place to prevent retaliation and ensure a fair process for all. We seek your support in these shared efforts and ask you to continue to push for enduring changes that leave our university better than we found it — for all those it serves.  

Dismantling systematic barriers takes commitment and time. We thank you for your commitment and your work to help address these important issues, now and into the future. 


Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.                                                Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D.
President                                                                            Provost and EVP for Academic Affairs

Melissa Woo, Ph.D.                                                            Norman J. Beauchamp Jr., M.D., MHS
EVP for Administration and                                               EVP for Health Sciences
   Chief Information Officer