Collective Action to End Campus Sexual Assault
There may be no other higher education issue in recent years that has garnered so much attention from all levels of government, received such bipartisan support, and created such a united front across public universities as the issue of campus sexual assault. President Obama, members of Congress, governors, and state lawmakers have joined hands with higher education associations, advocacy groups, campus leaders and stakeholders across the higher education community in a quest to end sexual violence on or near our state’s and nation’s college campuses.
Here in Michigan, the shared pursuit to end sexual assault is evident among the state’s 15 public universities; each of which has advanced extensive campus community education, prevention and response efforts. This includes leveraging scholarly inquiry and research efforts to better understand the campus climate involving sexual assault and its impact on victims and the community.
In addition to the presidents and chancellors that represent the board of directors of the Michigan Association of State Universities (MASU), more than 15 committees comprised of key institutional stakeholders convened by the association are each making their unique contributions to stem campus sexual assault. The most recently-formed committee consists of the state university Title IX Coordinators, who are meeting to collaborate and use their collective expertise about sexual assault prevention and response strategies to make all of our campuses safer places.
Ending campus sexual assault requires collaboration among all stakeholders, and especially necessitates support from the state. Here in Michigan, we have benefited from a First Family dedicated to ending campus sexual assault. First Lady Sue Snyder recently hosted her second statewide summit on the issue. The conference brought together higher education officials to engage in a program that provided a wealth of insight on strategies for reinforcing the First Lady’s goals to inform and empower students, and ultimately, to prevent campus sexual assault from occurring. The state universities were strong partners in making the summit a success, providing speakers, resource support, and the active participation of hundreds of campus professionals resolute in their shared desire to end sexual assault.
In tandem with the first campus sexual assault prevention summit, Governor Rick Snyder proposed and subsequently received legislative support for a campus sexual assault grant program. Now in its second year, the program distributes $500,000 across the state’s higher education institutions, igniting and expanding innovative approaches aimed at changing the culture around campus sexual assault. The fruits of the interventions and programs engendered by last year’s state grants were on exhibit at the First Lady’s summit and have received additional coverage.
Other partners in and out of state government are working to combat campus sexual assault. These include the Michigan Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention and Treatment Board, the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards, and the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan.
Given the magnitude of focus and collective action aimed at putting an end to sexual assaults that occur on or near college campuses, meaningful change may be in the offing. Through the power of our individual and shared efforts, we have the power to make a long overdue, generational statement when it comes to ending campus sexual assault.