© 2024 Michigan State University Board of Trustees
Public Media from Michigan State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

State Rep. Proposes Campus "Ombudsman" for Sexual Assault Cases

Reginald Hardwick
State Rep. Erika Geiss (D) Taylor

In the wake of the Larry Nassar scandal, many Michigan lawmakers are proposing changes to strengthen reporting of sexual abuse or assaults.. so the victims will be believed.. the first time they speak out. State representative Erika Geiss of Taylor wants to place an independent person on campuses to hear from students who do not believe their university is taking their sexual misconduct claims seriously. 

WKAR’s Reginald Hardwick talked with Representative Geiss about the her proposal and if it could have made a difference at Michigan State University where Nassar worked as a campus doctor. He abused many girls and women involved in athletics under the guise of treatment. 

Geiss: So the idea of the ombudsman would be a way for students with Title IX issues, if they are not getting addressed at their university, to have external space that would protect them from intimidation or retaliation. And it would not be specific just to just MSU. While this current issue occurred at MSU, the issues around sexual assault occur on campuses everywhere. We really want to stress the concept of prevention, protection and accountability. And so the ombudsman would fall under the umbrella of protection.

Hardwick: Who would oversee the position and how would they be vetted?

Geiss: Those are some of the pieces that we are working on to make sure that it is a very sound part of the protection umbrella. This isn't something that you can really rush through. It needs to be done well and it needs to be done in a way that provides the victims and the survivors with as much of a resource that helps protect them.

Hardwick: Had this person had been in place, do you think that may have changed possibly some of the issues we saw here at MSU?

Geiss: I think its very possible it would have been another area where victims could have gone. I think we have a big issue with failing to listen to victims when they inform someone that they have been victimized. And it might have added another layer that could have provided them with protection and with relief a lot sooner. It might have prevented additional victims from being victimized over the course of time.

Hardwick: Your bill for this ombudsman... where does it stand in the Michigan statehouse and where is the future path for it right now?

Geiss: We are working on making sure the language is good and strong and working with our colleagues both in the House and in the Senate and both sides of the aisle. So that when it comes to addressing the sexual assault and harassment that there is a strong set of policies that can be presented and hopefully acted upon. 

Related Content
Journalism at this station is made possible by donors who value local reporting. Donate today to keep stories like this one coming. It is thanks to your generosity that we can keep this content free and accessible for everyone. Thanks!