Guest column published online Oct. 17, 2019, Lansing State Journal
Since August, and my first day as Michigan State University’s 21st president, I have been hearing from our campus community and Spartans everywhere that we need broad, deep cultural change in how we approach relationship violence and sexual misconduct.
I came to MSU fully understanding that I still have a lot to learn – that sexual assault prevention and response are a top priority and a vital part of making this campus one that is safe, respectful and welcoming.
Connecting with the community over the last couple of months has shown me that the collective will necessary to address such a deep-rooted problem is in place, and I have been most impressed with the foundational work already underway to act on it.
MSU has a strong network of workgroups, units and organizations driving changes supporting awareness and accountability.
The Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct (RVSM) Expert Advisory Workgroup, chaired by MSU psychology professor Rebecca Campbell, is central to these efforts. This group of campus experts took the lead to assess the campus climate, existing programs and processes, and begin to create solutions to effectively respond to and prevent sexual violence.
I urge you to visit MSU’s Our Commitment website to learn more about the significant changes made over the last year or two and the continuing work that is still underway.
Students have been at the forefront of change, standing in solidarity to support one another and to hold faculty and staff accountable. Registered student organizations and groups also have contributed by creating programming in conjunction with units – such as the Prevention, Outreach and Education Department – around national initiatives like "It’s On Us" weeks of action, one of the most widely adopted sexual assault and relationship violence awareness events.
It’s On Us was established in 2014 by the White House to engage male students and change campus culture surrounding sexual assault. Today, more than 250 colleges across the country participate in this initiative centered on prevention work: bystander intervention, consent education and survivor support.
MSU supports It’s On Us by hosting weeks of action in October and April, coinciding with Domestic Violence Awareness and Sexual Assault Awareness months, respectively.
This academic year’s first week of action was Oct. 14-18, with events focused on bringing our community together to support survivors, raise awareness of affected marginalized populations and practice self-care and healing from RVSM trauma. Students selected Laverne Cox, an actress and LGBTQ rights activist, to deliver the week’s keynote address which touched on her experience as a transgender woman of color.
I am resolved to see institutional and cultural change at Michigan State to acknowledge and respond to the challenges of sexual assault and relationship violence. You can learn more about the It’s On Us week of action at msu.edu.
Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.
President, Michigan State University