Re-evaluating policy

Investigations at MSU mobilizes Ferris administration

A task force has been assembled per Ferris President David Eisler’s request to review Ferris’ current policies on sexual assault. 

The trial at Michigan State University concerning MSU team physician Larry Nassar has generated national attention and has caused many other universities to examine their own practices in response. The last time Ferris convened a task force specifically in regard to sexual assault policies was in 2014 after the Questions and Answers on Title IX Sexual Violence was posted that April by the U.S. Department of Education. 

Ferris news services and social media manager Sandy Gholston, who has been at Ferris since 2007 and was a member of the 2014 task force, explained that Eisler has been reactive and proactive to situations at other universities in the past. 

“[He’s been] reactive to a situation that’s happened at another institution to see what’s happened there and see what we can learn from it. So, in a sense, he’s been reactive to that situation and then proactive to see what we can do at Ferris to take a look at our policies to see are we doing things the right way,” Gholston said. 

Legislation is changing statewide and nationally, such as the U.S. Department of Education’s withdrawal of the Dear Colleague Letter on Sexual Violence from 2011 and Questions and Answers on Title IX Sexual Violence from 2014. According to the Detroit Free Press, Michigan legislators gathered on Feb. 26 to unveil a 10-bill package to reform sexual assault laws to make strides toward preventing sexual violence. 

Nassar was sentenced to a 60-year federal sentence for possession of child pornography, 40 to 175 years from Ingham County and 40 to 125 years from Eaton County in state prison for sexually assaulting young women and girls during supposed medical procedures. This has brought an investigation upon the university by the Michigan Attorney General and the National Collegiate Athletic Association. 

There is not currently a student included in the task force and task force representatives declined to meet with the Torch. However, in an email from head of the task force, Ferris Vice President of Student Affairs Jeanine Ward-Roof, it was made clear that student opinions would be involved through a focus group and the climate survey sent out to students via email on Feb. 11. 

“I’m happy that we are getting ahead of it versus not responding in the case of MSU or some of the other schools,” Ferris accountancy and business administration senior and president of student government Patrick Maloney said. “It’s important to be ahead of it and I think the university recognizes that.” 

Ferris respiratory therapy senior Deprece Kelly said she doesn’t believe the email will generate enough responses to be accurate and believes that it is important that students are involved. 

“I’m a huge believer in getting students involved in anything like this on campus because it is a university, it is for the students,” Kelly said. “Faculty does really well but I also think faculty isn’t in that student position and from whenever they went to school, things are so different now, so it’s always good to have a younger point of view.” 

Other students have agreed with Kelly’s statements on student involvement as well. 

“I definitely think that student input at a college like this is important because the number of students greatly outnumbers the administrators and we are the ones on campus all the time,” Ferris business administration sophomore and student government parliamentarian Joseph Rockwell said. “But I definitely think that the focus group and climate survey is a step in the right direction.” 

The administration’s lack of transparency in the process of setting up the task force and answering questions thus far has caused concern among students. 

“I think administrators should be open to students—to listen to them—and when the information is made available, then they should go to the student reporters or they should go to those who are going to disperse the information to the students most rapidly and most effectively,” Rockwell said. 

Kelly expressed that she believes Ferris’ administration should be transparent in regard to sexual assault and policy changes in the future. 

“Don’t ignore it, take it seriously and do something about it,” Kelly said. “Show that you are taking action and not just ignoring the issue.”

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