President's Message to Campus - October 23, 2018

Sexual Misconduct Task Force Report

This past year, the Nassar abuse trial involving Michigan State University, followed by revelations at the University of Southern California, Ohio State University and other universities placed sexual misconduct, sexual harassment and sexual assault at the forefront of issues colleges and universities must address. Last January my Message to the University Community on Campus Sexual Assault Prevention and Education included these commitments and charge:

“At our University, we take all sexual assault claims very seriously and carefully investigate all cases of sexual assault with special concern for the survivor. We also highly value an ethical community on our campuses. It is one of our core values. This means we must actively promote the safety, respect and well-being of our students, our employees and our visitors to campus.

So there is no misunderstanding, we will continue to afford due process to those accused of sexual assault. At the same time, we are firmly committed to creating and maintaining a safe campus for all of our community members. Much significant work has already been accomplished, including a university-wide review in 2014.

At Ferris, we will continue to build a culture of sexual assault prevention and provide immediate response and support for survivors of sexual assault. To that end, I have asked Vice President for Student Affairs Jeanine Ward-Roof to convene and chair a task force that will take a hard look at our current processes, thoroughly examine and review our policies and procedures, and make certain that unequivocally – and without hesitation – we are committed to:

  • Preventing sexual assault.
  • Investigating and responding to allegations of sexual assault.
  • Supporting survivors of sexual assault and ensuring that their rights are protected.
  • Educating our campus community on sexual assault prevention, investigation and response, and support for survivors of sexual assault.”

The Sexual Misconduct Task Force has completed its review. Statistics included in this report underline the seriousness of sexual assault nationwide – 

  • A sexual assault occurs in America every 98 seconds.
  • Traditional college-aged women (18-24 years of age) are three times more at risk of being sexually assaulted and those not attending college are four times more at risk than the general population.
  • College women are twice more likely to be sexually assaulted than robbed.
  • Seventy-eight percent of college-aged males are more likely than nonstudents of the same age to be a victim of sexual assault.
  • On college campuses, over half of the sexual assaults occurred in the first four months of the term, and a higher risk exists throughout the first and second years.
  • Incidents do not typically involve strangers, as in eight out of 10 sexual assaults, the survivor knew the accused; intimate partners comprised over half (51.1%) of those responsible for assaults and 40.8% of assaults were reported to be perpetrated by acquaintances of female survivors.

The Task Force report includes results from the 2018 Campus Climate Survey administered at our University and completed by 1,518 students. Of those who responded:

  • 259 (17.1%) reported unwanted sexual experiences. Women are most vulnerable, with 220 (20.7%) reporting unwanted sexual experiences.
  • 437 (28.8%) reported experiencing stalking behaviors. Women are most vulnerable, with 342 (32.2%) reporting experiencing behaviors consistent with stalking.
  • 367 (24.2%) reported experiencing relationship abuse. Women are most vulnerable, with 282 (26.5%) reporting experiencing abuse.

To summarize the findings above, which are less than the national averages, 1 in 5 of our female students reported unwanted sexual experiences, 1 in 3 reported experiencing stalking behaviors and 1 in 4 experienced relationship abuse.

In their work, the Task Force organized into three work groups: Title IX, chaired by Joy Pufhal, minors on campus, chaired by Arrick Jackson, and clinic practices, chaired by Lisa Roach. The Task Force identified 14 gaps – seven in policies and procedures, four in education and training, and three of a miscellaneous nature. They also recommend 12 best practices and areas that need further discussion. At least one of the gaps in the report has been addressed, and work is underway on many of the items identified.

One of the identified gaps is internal education on sexual misconduct. To that end, we will implement a series of new educational offerings beginning on Wednesday, Nov. 14, provided by nationally known speaker Scott Lewis. You can hear his presentation inside the UC Room 202. More detail will be coming soon on the exact times for these trainings. Please make every effort to attend one of these important sessions.

This past spring the Michigan Legislature passed a number of new requirements for public colleges and universities on sexual misconduct, harassment and assault. One of these is an external review of our policies, procedures and efforts on these topics. This external review will both validate and build upon the Task Force report.

You can view the results of this comprehensive report on the Title IX website. I strongly encourage you to read beyond the executive summary and to review the considerable amount of materials in the full report and supporting appendices, along with the Task Force’s recommendations.

As a reminder, with very few exceptions, faculty and staff at Ferris are deemed “responsible employees” under Title IX. A significant amount of information and assistance is available on the Title IX website. The Student Affairs staff have developed a reference guide on how one can “Respond, Refer and Report” sexual misconduct, harassment or assault.

It is important that when incidents occur that they be reported so the victim can receive assistance and support that is available. I found this reference guide helpful and have included it here with their permission:

RESPOND: Listen without judgment. Reassure the person that you will connect him or her to support and services available. Let the person know that the University takes these matters seriously and has policies prohibiting misconduct and retaliation.

REFER: Connect the student to campus confidential support at the Personal Counseling Center (Big Rapids campus: x5968), Counseling, Disability, and Tutoring Services at KCAD (616-451-2787) or offer to call an off-campus 24-hour crisis sexual assault or domestic violence advocate hotline with them (855-VOICES4).

REPORT: Let the person know that the Title IX Coordinator/Deputy or someone on their behalf will be following up with to ensure he or she is aware of the resources and options available to them. Notify the appropriate Title IX Coordinator/Deputy by phone as soon as practical.

Big Rapids Campus: For allegations against employees contact Kylie Piette, Director of Equal Opportunity, x2152; for allegations against students contact the University interim Title IX Coordinator, Joy Pufhal, x5916.

KCAD: For allegations against employees contact Sandy Britton, Dean of Student Success, 616-451-2787 or Kylie Piette, Director of Equal Opportunity, x2152; for allegations against students contact Sandy Britton.

Statewide Locations: For allegations against employees contact Jocelyn Goheen, Director of Student Services, 616-643-5741 or Kylie Piette, Director of Equal Opportunity, x2152; for allegations against students contact Jocelyn Goheen.

I am extremely grateful for the work of the Task Force and the time and energy the members devoted to this comprehensive review: Lindsay Barber, Bruce Borkovich, Nicole DeKraker, Kevin Carmody, Jocelyn Goheen, Annette Jackson, Arrick Jackson, Lisa Ortiz, Victor Piercey, Kylie Piette, Joy Pufhal, Lisa Roach, Cami Sanderson, Jeanine Ward-Roof, Perk Weisenburger and Gary Wendlowsky.

We are fortunate to have safe campuses in Big Rapids, Grand Rapids and across Michigan, and we work very hard to ensure the safety of our students, faculty and staff. Please help build on our focused efforts to prevent and respond to sexual misconduct on our campus. Thank you for joining in on these efforts to ensure that no form of sexual misconduct has any place within the Ferris community.

David L. Eisler, president