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Students sue Michigan State University over handling of sexual assaults

Posted at 6:35 PM, Nov 18, 2015

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Emily Kollaritsch and Shayna Gross are sharing what they say is both an injustice and a threat to college students in East Lansing.

Attorney Irwin Zalkin said, "These young women have filed a courageous lawsuit today against Michigan State for their failure to adequately respond to each of their reports that they were sexually assaulted by fellow MSU students."

The California-based attorney said he's fought similar cases in the Golden State and now he's teamed up with attorney Jennifer Salvatore from Ann Arbor to represent these MSU students.

Zalkin said the university violated Title IX. It's a federal mandate which requires college campuses that receive federal money to respond to sexual assault complaints and follow specific guidelines (i.e. timeliness).

Kollaritsch said before she reported her sexual assault, she was told that she wouldn't have to live in the same hall or attend the same classes as her attacker.

"But those are broken promises. It shouldn't take over 285 days to investigate a case, when the Office of Civil Rights says it shouldn't be over 60 [days]," Kollaritsch said.

Zalkin said, "After several several months, her assailant was given a slap on the wrist."

Kollaritsch said she was surprised to learn that Gross's attacker was the same guy. Along with school administrators, the lawsuit also names Kappa Sigma Fraternity in the brief.

Gross said, "Michigan State University's investigation process has caused me harm and delivered me absolutely no justice."

She continued, "To this day, I still struggle with panic attacks, anxiety, depression and triggers. It took MSU sixteen months to conclude my case."

The students are seeking money for damages and wants the university to change its approach to handling sexual assault reports.

Kollaritsch said, "Maybe one day, survivors don't need to fight this hard to get justice and safety on their own campus."

Michigan State University's media relations released this statement:

“MSU does not comment on pending or potential litigation. Sexual misconduct in all of its forms is an issue university leaders take very seriously. Over the past several years, MSU has taken significant steps to increase resources for survivors and revise policies to hear complaints in a timely and fair manner consistent with federal guidance.”