LANSING, Mich. — Members of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education on Wednesday morning kicked off a series of meetings to discuss current sexual misconduct policies at Michigan’s public universities and meaningful changes that each institution can make to further ensure the safety of their students.
“I have always made it a priority to fight for measures that reduce sexual assaults, especially on our college campuses,” said Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, who chairs the Senate subcommittee. “We need university administrators, lawmakers, students and parents to all come together and work to keep our kids safe.”
Wednesday’s committee meeting was the first of many meetings that will give lawmakers and university presidents a chance to discuss flaws in the current system and what changes can be made to prevent something like the tragedy at Michigan State from ever happening again. The meeting also featured a presentation by representatives from Western Michigan University on Title IX compliance and necessary measures schools must take to keep students safe.
The presentation was meant to help familiarize committee members with federal laws and guidelines universities must follow regarding sexual assault claims. The committee will begin taking testimony from the university presidents in the coming weeks.
All of the state’s university presidents will be asked to testify on behalf of their institution’s policies and initiatives during upcoming committee hearings. Committee members have also asked the university leaders to be prepared to answer Title IX questions before formal testimony begins.
Schuitmaker said she looks forward to working with stakeholders to expand protections for students and resources available for victims, and for those who may have questions.
“This is just the first step in recovering from the recent tragedy that has plagued one of our state’s major universities,” she said. “This cannot happen again and we need to do more to ensure our state’s institutions are in compliance with all applicable state and federal laws, as well as constantly seeking to improve the safety of students.”
She also noted that it is important to differentiate the committee’s duties with those of law enforcement.
“It is important to note that this committee’s role is not to investigate the tragedy that happened,” Schuitmaker said. “Our job is to prevent it from ever happening again.”