Michigan State University Agrees to Change Its Response to Complaints of Sexual Harassment, Sexual Violence

Archived Information

Michigan State University Agrees to Change Its Response to Complaints of Sexual Harassment, Sexual Violence

September 1, 2015

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced today that it has resolved its investigation of two sexual violence complaints filed against Michigan State University. The university, which has taken important positive steps to provide and maintain a safe learning environment for everyone on campus, entered into a resolution agreement to correct violations found during OCR's investigation.

"With this agreement, Michigan State University undertakes a strong and comprehensive commitment to address sexual harassment and sexual violence, which will benefit more than 50,000 students and employees," said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights. "I am also grateful for the university's good work during the course of our investigation in taking steps to provide a safe learning environment for its students and employees."

Following its investigation, OCR determined that the university violated Title IX because:

  • It did not promptly investigate the two complaints that were the subject of OCR's investigation, although the university's investigations of both complaints ultimately were thorough and equitable;
  • It operated noncompliant grievance procedures, had an inadequate notice of nondiscrimination, and failed to appropriately notify students and employees of the identity of the Title IX coordinator; and
  • Its failure to address complaints of sexual harassment and sexual violence in a prompt and equitable manner caused and may have contributed to a continuation of a sexually hostile environment for numerous students and staff on campus during the years covered by OCR's investigation, 2009 to 2014.

Prior to and during the course of OCR's investigation, the university made revisions to its Title IX policies and procedures in an effort to correct several Title IX compliance concerns. The resolution agreement commits the university to implement extensive remedies to address the concerns OCR identified. Under the terms of the agreement, the university will:

  • Revise its notice of non-discrimination, Title IX-complaint procedures and other procedures to make these compliant with Title IX.
  • Issue a public anti-harassment statement notifying all members of the campus community that the university does not tolerate sexual harassment and encouraging students to report any such incidents to the Title IX coordinator.
  • Train its staff on the revised procedures and on how to properly conduct and document future Title IX investigations.
  • Develop a procedure to ensure the university maintains documentation regarding sex discrimination complaints, including complaints of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and sexual violence, and the university's handling of those complaints.
  • Provide bi-annual mandatory training to all university faculty and staff regarding recognizing and reporting incidents of sexual harassment.
  • Provide mandatory online training to all university students regarding sexual harassment and sexual assault/violence and to offer a series of in-person information sessions to students that cover similar topics.
  • Review and revise any and all university training materials used to train student athletes with respect to matters involving sex discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault and sexual violence.
  • Develop a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the university police, and revise its MOU with the East Lansing police and other local law enforcement agencies; and provide the university police with Title IX training.
  • Conduct resource assessments and add relevant staff as needed in to order promptly and equitably respond to Title IX complaints.
  • Create a committee comprised of representatives from various students groups and university faculty and staff to meet and identify strategies for ensuring that students understand their rights under Title IX; how to report possible violations of Title IX; and to identify strategies for the prevention of sexual harassment, sexual assault and sexual violence.
  • Conduct a series of student and employee climate checks and develop a monitoring program to assess the effectiveness of the university's overall anti-discrimination and anti-harassment efforts.
  • Provide annual training to students who are members of sororities or fraternities in the campus area that covers topics related to sex discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual assault/violence.
  • Examine past grievance files, evaluate whether the grievances were properly handled and assess whether any additional action or remedies are warranted. Offer to provide remedies to individuals to address any harm they incurred as a result of the university's delay in processing their complaints.
  • Evaluate the safety of certain areas of campus to ensure the areas have sufficient lighting and emergency phones.

A copy of the resolution letter can be found here, and the agreement is posted here.

OCR's mission is to ensure equal access to education and promote educational excellence throughout the nation through the vigorous enforcement of civil rights. OCR is responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination by educational institutions on the basis of disability, race, color, national origin, sex and age, as well as the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act of 2001.

For details on how OCR handles civil rights cases, please click here.