EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan State University has seen an increase in reports of sexual misconduct and officials are taking longer to investigate, according to university records.
The university’s Office of Institutional Equity received almost 1,200 sexual misconduct reports during the 2017-18 academic year, up from more than 700 reports the previous year, The Lansing State Journal reported .
Records show that the average investigation during the 2017-18 academic year took about 120 days, up from 80 days the previous year.
“We’ve had an unprecedented volume of cases, and we’ve done everything we can to build investigative capacity to make sure we can accommodate all of the investigations due,” Rob Kent, interim associate vice president of the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX Education and Compliance.
The university hired third-party firm Kroll to help with the caseload. MSU previously had nine investigators and is working to hire replacements for two investigators promoted to other roles, Kent said.
The increase in reports doesn’t necessarily mean more incidents are happening, said Rebecca Campbell, a psychology professor who leads the university’s Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct Expert Advisory Workgroup.
“The mandatory reporting policy requires responsible employees to make a report to OIE if they get a disclosure of relationship violence or sexual misconduct,” she said. “There’s been a concerted effort to make sure all employees understand and follow that policy.”
The reporting increase is likely tied to a greater awareness of sexual misconduct as a public health and safety issue, as well as former university doctor Larry Nassar’s case, Campbell said.
“The Nassar case here at MSU and other high profile cases have certainly helped more survivors understand how pervasive this is and that they’re not alone,” she said. “They can find strength and courage in seeing sister survivors speaking out about their experiences.”