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Michigan State’s Independent Voice


How the conviction of a serial sexual predator changed Michigan State forever




In three years what changed about MSU’s sexual misconduct policies?

Professors on students mental health

The final chapter of college comes with an empty finality

Professors respond to mental health within their classes


Students say MSU is taking steps in the right direction to fight sexual assault on campus


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Measuring the challenges and triumphs of Michigan State’s Prevention, Outreach and Education Department By Jared Ramsey jared.ramsey@statenews.com Since its creation in 2008, the Prevention, Outreach and Education (POE) Department at Michigan State has worked to change MSU’s culture on campus surrounding relationship violence and sexual misconduct. The program has been fully virtual for the last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that has not slowed down the program at all as it continues to grow and train different parts of MSU in being more informed about sexual violence and how to promote a safe culture on campus, POE Department Director Kelly Schweda said. “We teach them the definitions, we give them scenarios, we give them resources that are available on campus to them so that they are well educated about what’s going on around them and the violence that we may see in our communities,” Animal science

junior Paige Gibb, a peer educator for the undergraduate SARV program, said. “We are just educators that want to make a difference in our community, and we bring this education to the students through these workshops.” POE has expanded Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct (RVSM) training to all parts of campus, including programs for faculty and staff, MSU Athletics, and fraternities and sororities in addition to the undergraduate student training program, Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence prevention (SARV), that has existed since 2018. “We are busy all the time,” Schweda said. “Faculty and staff really want to talk about it, they want to make culture change. They want to be involved in these types of changes across our campus. People care deeply about our campus community being safe, and being trauma-informed and being supportive of survivors. And I think that that’s really

reflective in how busy we’ve been.” The pandemic has not slowed down POE and SARV training on campus, as they shifted all of their content to a Zoom format. In the fall, POE offered 485 SARV and bystander workshops for first and second-year undergraduate students, and plan to offer over 100 more this semester. “Over the summer, my staff worked really hard at transitioning all of our programming to a virtual format,” Schweda said. “And it’s not just a recorded Zoom, somebody talking at you; it’s still as interactive. We trained our peer educators — we have over 80 peer educators, we trained them all on a Zoom platform — and it is all still interactive with peer educators leading the discussions. We had to break it down into smaller groups so that it can be managed that way. We had to run three times more (workshops) across campus so that we can manage it in smaller doses, so it still could

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Illustrated by Karly Graham

be interactive.” The workshops are offered in a webinar-style format, where the peer educators lead discussions and the participants respond with live feedback in the chat. This is a lot different than the traditional in-person SARV workshops, but the peer educators said that this has increased participation from students. “I’ve actually been surprised how much more participation we’re getting and people seem to be much more engaged,” Gibb said. “I think because it might be a little less scary participating when it’s in a chat over Zoom rather than in-person, especially when we’re talking about serious topics like this. So, it has actually been a good transformation on to Zoom.” The online format is not all positive, however. Peer educators said that it is hard to tell if students are actually paying attention to the workshop due to the webinar-style Zooms, and only have the chat to measure participation from students. “I think in-person has a better effect, because we can see them and we can see if they’re focused,” Social relations and policy and women and gender studies junior Darien Battagin said. “During the in-person sessions, you know, we tell them to put their phones away, and try to engage and like we can pick out people who we think aren’t paying attention as much. And it’s just almost a better environment.” Two of the newer programs created by POE, Greeks take the Lead and Spartans Against Violence (SAV), focus on how to prevent sexual violence in MSU Athletics and Greek life at MSU. The SAV program is mandatory for everyone associated with MSU Athletics, from

tutors for the programs to coaches and athletes themselves. There are two training sessions per year for MSU athletics, which focuses on the prevention of sexual violence within the athletic department as well as how to be an advocate for survivors of sexual violence as an athlete on campus. “I help my co-worker with the women’s athletic sessions,” Fisheries and wildlife junior Hannah Eberhard said, who

“We have been really focused on the second session because they have to do a first one and a second one. And the second one we’re really focused on rape culture, and breaking down these barriers of misogyny, and survivor victimblaming, different things like that.”

Hannah Eberhard fisheries and wildlife junior

helped lead SAV programs in the fall. These programs continuously help athletes learn about sexual violence and what to do as a bystander. “Instead of just doing a one time program for athletes, they go through in batches with their team members, and they go through multiple trainings with us,” Schweda said. “So not only talking about the policy, but really being challenged on how to be a leader, how to intervene, how to interrupt violence if you see it happening ... and navigating relationships with athletes.”

Greeks Take the Lead is a yearly training program focusing on preventing sexual violence within Michigan State’s fraternities and sororities. According to a 2017 State News analysis, Greek Life at MSU has been a consistent source of relationship violence at MSU, with 19 RVSM cases being reported to East Lansing Police Department between 2012 and 2017 and many more that were suspected but not reported. “We do trainings, particularly for the presidents and for the risk managers, because we want to make sure that the leadership in those chapters and those councils has very specific information regarding some of these topics,” POE Assistant Director Matea Caluk said. “We do the leadership trainings and we do new member training. So when new people come into the chapters, we do specific trainings for them. And this is in addition to them attending SARV and bystanders, so they do get these additional trainings.” POE has created an advisory board of 14 undergraduate students, called the Student Voice for Prevention Initiatives, which will work directly with the staff at POE to create workshops and classes that focus on the wants and needs of undergraduate students. The board met for the first time on January 21 and will meet monthly with POE to give feedback on the RVSM programs that are required for undergraduate students. “We do use the CDC model for sexual assault prevention on campuses as our base model for doing our work, but we also feel like having that student voice will be so important in order for us, again, to create programming that’s going to serve the students,” Caluk said.

Vol. 111 | No. 11


AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT EDITOR Julian Stainback ART DIRECTOR Maddie Monroe DESIGN Hope Ann Flores Emily Maze

CITY EDITOR Sophia Kalakailo SPORTS EDITOR Joe Dandron CULTURE EDITOR Kaishi Chhabra PHOTO EDITOR Alyte Katilius MULTIMEDIA MANAGER Tessa Osborne Cover by Maddie Monroe People walking on Grand River Avenue with masks on Jan. 20. After a new strain of the coronavirus, B.1.1.7, hit the U.S. in early January, health officials encouraged people to continue following social distancing recommendations. Photo by Rahmya Trewern


The State News @thesnews



NEWSROOM/CORRECTIONS (517) 295-5149 feedback@statenews.com GENERAL MANAGER Christopher Richert ADVERTISING M-F, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The State News is published by the students of Michigan State University every other Tuesday during the academic year. News is updated seven days a week at statenews.com. State News Inc. is a private, nonprofit corporation. Its current 990 tax form is available for review upon request at 435 E. Grand River Ave. during business hours. One copy of this newspaper is available free of charge to any member of the MSU community. Additional copies $0.75 at the business office only. Copyright © 2020 State News Inc., East Lansing, Michigan


The State News


Trustees, it’s time to release the documents The State News Editorial Board feedback@statenews.com Michigan State University Board of Trustees, you requested an investigation into the extent of the institution’s knowledge concerning a convicted serial sexual predator in 2018. Yet, you stonewall nearly 10,000 pages from the public eye. One former Trustee, Nancy Schlichting, resigned because of the disagreement. Her appointed replacement, Renee Knake, is the only trustee to have fully reviewed every page. After her review, Knake said the documents did not bring any new information to light — if that’s the case, why not release them? Survivors deserve to know. So do the students and the public. The answer the board gives is simple — attorney client privilege.” Specifically when it comes to insurance. MSU has an ongoing legal dispute seeking reimbursement for its settlement payments. Should MSU heed the calls to release these documents, it’s fair to redact legal opinions from university lawyers. Certainly, lawyers can say more than they need to, but

Survivors deserve to know. So do the students and the public. that can’t be the entirety of the withheld documents. Unless of course, the files reveal more insight into who knew of Larry Nassar’s abuse but failed to report it. But Knake has indicated this is not the case. Everything survivors, the public and insurance litigators could find is available in a 2018 letter from the law firm representing MSU to the Michigan House of Representatives and two federal “employee review” reports on Nassar and his previous boss, William Strampel, Knake said. Nevertheless, Knake’s recommendation is to have the documents published after an independent review.

We agree. Whatever responsibility may exist from withholding information from insurance companies does not outweigh the public interest in finding how the abuse was covered up for so long. Michigan State can neither take back its actions in allowing a predator to remain employed nor repair the damage done. Perhaps, with transparency, MSU can move forward with the accountability to prevent abuse and cover ups of abuse in the future. Release the documents, Trustees. It’s time.

The State News Editorial Board is composed of Editor-in-Chief Evan Jones, Managing Editor SaMya Overall, Campus Desk Editor Karly Graham, City Desk Editor Sophia Kalakailo, Culture Desk Editor Kaishi Chhabra, Sports Desk Editor Joe Dandron, Copy Chief Mark Ostermeyer, Audience Engagement Editor Julian Stainback, Multimedia Manager Tessa Osborne, Photo Editor Alyte Katilius, Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator Inna Mirzoyan and Staff Rep. Wendy Guzman. FE E DBACK@STAT E N EWS.COM

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A timeline of Nassar’s conviction and Michigan State’s response Content warning: contains descriptions of sexual abuse, harassment By Wajeeha Kamal wkamal@statenews.com Larry Nassar, an ex-Michigan State and USA Gymnastics sports doctor , was accused of two separate counts of sexual abuse on Sept. 13, 2016. This timeline could begin in 2014, when Amanda Thomashow filed a Title IX complaint against Nassar as an MSU student. It could begin even further back, in 1997, when former MSU gymnastics coach Kathie Klages received reports of Nassar’s abuse. His crimes spanned decades, and his conviction created a rupture within the university administration, created state and federal investigations into who knew what and when, and spawned many questions into how the university addresses sexual misconduct allegations, some that remain to be answered. Nassar was investigated in 2014 for similar allegations, but he was cleared of misconduct. The MSU police department (MSUPD) submitted their findings to the Ingham County Prosecutor’s office and no charges were filed at that time. According to a 19-page report obtained by the Lansing State Journal, Nassar received clearance from the Title IX investigation in 2014 and went back to practicing on July 30, 2014. MSUPD’s criminal investigation was ongoing. After July 30, 2014, at least twelve assaults had been reported. The Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office declined to charge Nassar after MSUPD requested Nassar be charged with sexual assault. Jason Cody, the MSU spokesman at the time, said Nassar had been “temporarily relieved of clinical and patient duties as of Aug. 30, 2016, as part of an investigation into alleged misconduct ... in response to a complaint made to authorities on Aug. 29, 2016.” Nassar was, however, placed on “certain employment requirements.” According to an NBC News investigation from Dec. 23, 2016, Nassar was required to have another person in the room while “approaching a patient to perform procedures of anything close to a sensitive nature.”


24 reports of alleged abuse date back to 1998, all reported to MSUPD after the publication of the Indianapolis Star story on Sept. 13, 2016, except for one, filed Aug. 29, 2016. Reported cases of misconduct included first-degree charges of vaginal penetration, oral/anal penetration or object penetration. Complaints allegedly took place close to the MSU community, including an office building adjacent to MSU Sports Medicine that houses the Michigan Athletic Club, and the building where MSU Sports Medicine is located. While complaints were being investigated, Nassar was running to be a representative for Holt Public School’s Board of Education.


The State News reported on Nov. 10, 2016, that there were at least 42 reported instances of sexual assault occurring in areas Nassar worked. Nassar was also facing additional lawsuits related to sexual abuse along with former associates, Bela and Marta Karolyi, former U.S. Olympics national team coordinators. On Nov. 21, 2016, former Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office obtained a felony warrant for Nassar’s arrest on three charges of first-degree sexual conduct with a person under 13. Once in custody on Nov. 22, 2016, Nassar’s bond was set at $1,000,000. On Nov. 30, 2016, The State News acquired court documents stating lawyers filed a letter in the Court of Claims as a notice of intent to file the following claims: “Violations of Title IX,” “Negligent failure to warn, train or educate,” “Negligent supervision,” “Constructive Fraud” and “Negligent Hiring and Retention.”

Six-time Olympic medal winner Aly Raisman addresses ex-MSU and USA Gymnastics Dr. Larry Nassar during her statement on the fourth day of Nassar’s sentencing on Jan. 19, 2018 at the Ingham County Circuit Court in Lansing. State News File Photo

sexual abuse of patients and possession of child pornography. Eight days later, Klages retired from her position due to allegations that she discouraged athletes from reporting sexual abuse. Two motions from a lawsuit alleged Klages was aware of Nassar’s misconduct since 1997.

directed investigation into MSU’s handling of sexual assault reports against ex-MSU doctor Larry Nassar with the Federal Student Aid office at MSU. At the time, MSU was under investigation by the NCAA, Michigan Attorney General’s Office, U.S. Congress, and the Michigan legislature.

JULY 2017

MARCH 2018

Nassar was accused of sexual assault by 119 women by trial. He pleaded guilty to three counts of child pornography charges in federal court on July 11, 2017. He signed a plea agreement admitting guilt to counts of acquiring and possessing more than 37,000 images of child pornography.


Nassar pleaded guilty to 22 counts of criminal sexual conduct of the first degree in Ingham and Eaton counties on Nov. 22 and Nov. 29, 2017, respectively. Nassar’s federal child pornography charges — to which he pleaded guilty in federal court — were not included as evidence in the Ingham County trial.


MSU’s Dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine, William D. Strampel, stepped down from his position for medical leave on Dec. 14, 2017. He was accused of failing “to report sexual abuse about which they knew or should have known.”


Nassar was arrested in mid-December following an FBI investigation that found 37,000 images and videos of child pornography on his property. It included GoPro videos of Nassar molesting children. As of Dec. 23, 2016, around 60 women came out with allegations against Nassar.

According to a report from the New York Times on Jan. 23, 2018, the NCAA opened an investigation into MSU. On Jan. 24, 2018, Nassar was sentenced to a maximum of 175 years in prison, a sentence of 40 years on each of his seven charges in Ingham County. The total number of survivors was 156. The same day, former MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon officially resigned. On Jan. 26, 2018, former MSU Athletic Director Mark Hollis announced his retirement.




On Feb. 8, 2017, Nassar was charged with destroying digital images and documents related to an investigation of his alleged 4


On Feb. 26, 2018, the U.S. Department of Education released a press statement announcing it will launch a new Title IX

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Strampel was arrested on March 26, 2018, for one charge of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct — a high court misdemeanor which could carry up to two years in prison — and a felony count of misconduct in office and two misdemeanors willful neglect of duty as a public officer. In 2016, Strampel stated he did not believe individuals who accused Nassar of sexual assault and did not want to fire Nassar.

JULY 2018

Strampel retired amid his criminal case. A retirement agreement was signed July 5, 2018, and halted the tenure revocation process sought by MSU Interim President John Engler. While facing charges, Strampel collected a $217,903 annual salary. Under the retirement agreement, he would receive a final payment of $175,000 along with basic retiree healthcare coverage. Strampel was barred from receiving emeritus status.


Klages was charged with two counts of lying to a peace officer during the course of the investigation into Nassar on August 23, 2018. Klages was charged with a felony and a misdemeanor.


According to a press release from Sept. 5, 2018, more than 100 new victims of Nassar’s sexual abuse came forward. On Sept. 5, 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice began investigations into the FBI’s response and handling of the sexual abuse allegations against Nassar. The Department of Justice launched this investigation because of allegations that the FBI failed to act on the complaints when they came from gymnasts on the U.S. national team in 2015. An FBI investigation into Nassar did not begin until the following year.


MSU student writes the survivors names on The Rock on Jan. 25, 2018. State News File Photo


Former USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny was arrested on Oct. 18, 2018, on a warrant for tampering with evidence in an investigation into Nassar’s possible sexual misconduct at a gymnastics camp. He allegedly ordered the removal of documents from the camp, a third-degree felony.


Simon was charged on Nov. 20, 2018, with lying to police as part of an ongoing investigation into MSU’s handling of Nassar. She was charged with two counts of lying to a peace officer in a violent crime investigation, a four-year felony, and two counts of lying to a peace officer in a four year or more crime investigation, a high-court misdemeanor with a maximum of two years.


According to an email obtained by The State News on Dec. 4, 2018, the Healing and Assistance Fund would be discontinued. Survivors of Nassar’s sexual abuse would receive all future payments from the $500 million settlement, not the fund. MSU began paying survivors the same day. On Dec. 21, 2018, Special Prosecutor William Forsyth said MSU redacted and withheld documents, made false public statements, and was primarily concerned with its image and reputation. Forsyth said MSU handed over irrelevant documents, and the university redacted or didn’t release documents because of claims of attorney-client privilege. The Attorney General’s Office said their investigation found that 11 MSU employees were told about Nassar’s abuse.


On April 12, 2019, Strampel was charged with an additional count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct. Five photographs were admitted in support of allegations that Strampel propositioned female students for nude photographs in return for allowing them to graduate. President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. was hired in May 2019, following Engler’s resignation. Stanley began his duties on Aug. 1 2019. Strampel was convicted on June 12, 2019, of misconduct in office and of two counts of willful neglect of duty. He was found not guilty of charges of second-degree criminal sexual conduct. In the 19-page agreement with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights (OCR), MSU agreed to revise non-discrimination and sexual misconduct policies to clarify Title IX’s and Section 1557’s prohibitions on sex discrimination. The university agreed to improve investigative and complaint resolution processes and to appoint an official to coordinate the complaint responses. It includes a chaperone policy. MSU must provide bi-annual reports to the OCR during the three-year term of their agreement. MSU filed a motion to dismiss lawsuits from over 100 survivors of Nassar’s abuse. The university claimed they had no legal responsibility to the women, according to The Detroit

Leslie Miller, Emma Ann Miller, and Bryan Tarrant (left to right) pose with a sign they brought outside of the Hannah Administration Building before the Board of Trustees meeting on Aug. 31, 2018. Emma Ann (daughter of Leslie) is a Nassar survivor herself, and Tarrant’s daughter, Jessica Tarrant, is also a Nassar survivor. State News File Photo

Free Press. The Office of Civil Rights determined MSU violated Title IX regulations by failing to respond to reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault by Nassar and Strampel on Sept. 5, 2019. MSU would pay a $4.5 million fine for their reporting failures.


Kathie Klages was found guilty of two counts of lying to police on Feb. 14, 2020 in Veterans Memorial Courthouse. Simon’s charges were dismissed by an Eaton County Judge on May 13, 2020. The Attorney General’s office filed a claim to appeal the dismissed charges on July 20, 2020. On Sept. 1, 2020, 34 individuals who may have received notice of complaints regarding Nassar’s sexual abuse and the misconduct of Strampel were cleared by MSU. According to the “Reports of Employee Review” MSU sent to the Department of Education, six former/current staff are being further investigated about their knowledge of Strampel’s misconduct. The former/current employees that could have potentially known about complaints or concerns regarding Strampel that are being further investigated include Simon, Former Provost June Youatt, Former Associate Provost and Associate Vice President for Academic Human Resources Terry Curry, Former

Kaylee Lorincz, right, is embraced by Larissa Boyce after her statement on the seventh and final day of ex-MSU and USA Gymnastics Dr. Larry Nassar’s sentencing on Jan. 24, 2018 at the Ingham County Circuit Court in Lansing. State News File Photo

Associate Dean Kari Hortos, Former Assistant Professor and Associate Director Elizabeth Petsche, and Former Associate Chairperson, Radiology, Thomas Cooper. The report on Nassar states that two more former or current MSU employees are being further investigated as a part of the review, including. Gary Stollak and Strampel.

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IN THREE YEARS, WHAT CHANGED ABOUT MICHIGAN STATE’S SEXUAL MISCONDUCT POLICIES? By Anastasia Pirrami anastasia.@statenews.com Nearly three years ago, Larry Nassar, former USA gymnastics and Michigan State sports doctor, was sentenced to 175 years in prison after decades of sexual abuse. Since Nassar’s conviction, MSU has made changes in personnel, policy and procedure. Today, MSU offers numerous inclusive programs to students, staff and faculty on campus within the Prevention, Outreach and Education Department (POE). Programs include the Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence (SARV) Prevention Workshop, Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct program (RVSM), MSU’s Center for Survivors, and MSU’s Sexual Assault Healthcare Program. SARV is a sexual assault workshop that is required of first-year undergraduate students at the university to teach and define genderbased violence, explain university policies and resources available on campus and in the community, according to MSU’s POE website. MSU’s Center for Survivors provides many resources for survivors of sexual abuse in the greater Lansing area, including free and confidential individual counseling, advocacy, and support groups, according to the organization’s website. Through the center, survivors who have been sexually assaulted in the last five days can receive free medical services through the MSU Sexual Assault Healthcare Program. On Friday, Jan. 22, Lansing State Journal reported that Michigan State will review closed cases of sexual misconduct to create further policies to improve the campus climate. These changes and responses all followed MSU’s struggle to find leadership after ex-MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon resigned shortly after Nassar’s conviction after facing increasing pressure from both inside and outside the university. Simon was replaced by former Michigan Gov. John Engler, who resigned from the position in early 2019. Engler’s tenure as president was controversial from the beginning, with the MSU Steering Committee publicly announcing that Engler was unfit for the position before his appointment. During his tenure, survivor Kaylee Lorincz said that Engler tried to settle her civil lawsuit with $250,000 without a lawyer present. According to a 2018 report from the Detroit Free Press, Engler called the allegation “fake news.” Engler also moved to end the Healing Assistance Fund, despite his sexual misconduct advisory workgroup advising him not to, according to an email The State News obtained in November 2018. As of Dec. 2020, the Healing Assistance Fund is available in the form of expense reimbursement, according to the MSU website. Survivors and their families are eligible for the reimbursement, and the money can be used for out of pocket expenses related to outpatient mental health services, in-patient hospitalization with a mental health diagnosis and more. The fund cannot be used to cover hospitalization for conditions unrelated to mental health. Satish Udpa, former dean of MSU’s College of Engineering, was appointed as MSU’s interim president the day after Engler’s resignation. Current President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. was chosen to fill the position in the spring of 2019 permanently. Former ASMSU president 6


Teal flags signed in support of sexual assault victims photographed on April 3, 2019. The flags are signed by at least 4,000 MSU students with words of support for survivors of sexual assault. State News file photo

Katherine Rifiotis said at the time that student needs were prioritized in the decision to hire Stanley. POE Peer Educator and sexual assault survivor Camille Hollenquest teaches SARV classes to first-year and transfer students at MSU. She also teaches Spartans Against Violence classes geared toward Spartan athletes. Hollenquest, in her second year as a peer educator, said her experience had been very positive teaching classes. “As a teacher of these classes, I think they are very beneficial,” Hollenquest said. “I visibly see the connections and the changes that I’m making daily on campus. … It’s very enriching knowing that people are actually taking these classes seriously, and they’re understanding how the climate on campus is changing for the better.” Online webinar workshops were a potential obstacle for interactive learning as many of the educators thought that students might be less engaged participating via Zoom. However, Hollenquest said she thought otherwise. “I believe that COVID has, ironically, impacted the workshops, in a more positive way because the participants are in the leisure, in the comfort of their own homes so that they feel safe,” Hollenquest said. “They don’t have to have their cameras on if they don’t want to ... and they can also direct their questions to either me, the peer educator or everyone in the session, so they have that level of privacy as well.”

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Amanda Smith sets up a table of teal shirts, stickers and pages of resources for sexual assault and abuse survivors at the MSU Museum on Jan. 15, 2019. State News file photo


Graduate Jillian Kettlewell looks on during the march across campus during Take Back the Night on Thursday, April 18, 2019. Take Back the Night is an event that brings awareness to the prevalence of domestic and sexual assault in the hopes of empowering survivors to come forward. State News file photo

Two members of the presidential search committee wear teal ribbons at the Kellogg Conference Center on Oct. 11, 2018 State News file photo

Hollenquest said that she believes online engagement is higher than in person because the level of anonymity enables participants to be free of any shame or pressure to speak or ask questions. Women and gender studies senior Arianna Pittenger, a peer mentor for POE, said that students ask her and other educators about more ways to be involved with POE through employment opportunities or volunteer work. “Through this training, I can see that a lot of students are stepping up and want to be more

involved,” Pittenger said. “I would say that over the time that I have been here … I see a lot more talk even outside of training about consent and what is acceptable and what is not. I would say that there is more comradery between students, as well as the training; students are really working to get all the information out of the training (as they can).” Psychology senior Emily Saxon, who is also a peer educator, undertook an extensive research project a couple of years prior on sexual misconduct prevention across college campuses

in the nation, which was largely motivated by her frustration and shock after Nassar’s conviction. “To be honest, I set out with the intent to gather data about what other universities were doing in terms of prevention programming and gather data on what the best evidencebased practices for preventing sexual assault on college campuses,” Saxon said. “I sort of wanted to stick it to them (MSU) and say, ‘OK, here’s what I found. We need to do more.’” MSU Board Chair Dianne Byrum said significant change began with the shift in leadership. Byrum said many new positions were filled, such as administrative positions, a new Title IX director and, most commonly known, a new president. The position of chief diversity officer was also implemented at the university for the first time. “It was very clear from the campus community that they wanted the president to be from the outside and not someone from Michigan State, and that was crystal clear,” Byrum said. “Whether we were talking to students, faculty, staff, alumni, they thought that the university was too insular and too soiled. If we were really going to drive change across the university broadly, then we needed to bring in people that had experiences outside of Michigan State.” Saxon used an extensive questionnaire to interview eight other universities that were comparable to MSU, many of which were from the Big 10. All universities, except for MSU, were kept anonymous. Saxon asked questions about mandatory sexual assault training, whether or not the

workshops were in person or online, what kind of budgets the school had for sexual assault training programs, and so forth. According to Saxon’s report, published in Social Science Scholars Research: Volume 4, all nine of the universities had conducted a campus climate survey in the past five years, with specialized programs for “specific audiences (such as Greek life, LGBTQ and international students).” However, only six out of the nine schools required students to complete both online and in-person training. Only five of the universities’ prevention efforts are funded sustainably and only two of the universities offer “multi-year sexual misconduct prevention programming.” MSU’s programs met all these criteria.

“It turns out, MSU was actually the leader in a lot of categories. I would say that from a student-to-student prevention framework, MSU is following best practices.” Emily Saxon

psychology senior Pittenger encourages students to get active on campus. “You never know who a survivor is, and you want to be a good ally in any way that you can,” Pittenger said. “Take as much as you can out of training and work to build a better campus.”

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Next fall, resident assistants will not be required to have lived on campus previously By Melanie Soverinsky melanie.soverinsky@statenews.com The Resident Assistant (RA) application went live for Michigan State’s 2021-2022 academic year Jan. 11, though it is not the same as previous years due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its influence on in-person learning. A noticeable change is that students have the option to apply without having previously lived on campus. “We anticipate it will only be this year that we will waive the live-on requirement as part of the RA application process,” Bethany Balks, assistant director of communications at Residential and Hospitality Services, said. “Certainly, those who have lived on campus I would say that is still a desired qualification, but it is also important that we look at some other skills in the application process beyond if you have live-on experience.” While this option is only expected to be offered this year due to COVID-19 limiting the number of people able to move into the dorms, former RA and neuroscience senior Heather Asuncion said having some on-campus experience is helpful. “Personally, I do think it is necessary to have live-on experience to be an RA,” Asuncion said.



“It helped me a lot in my RA role because I knew how dorm life worked, how the campus ran, I knew what problems could arise in terms of roommate and hall issues.” Asuncion worked as an RA throughout the 2019-2020 academic school year. With that being said, a majority of the training will most likely be held virtually up until Resident Assistants are able to move onto campus in the summer. Furthermore, RA fall training is scheduled to occur Aug. 15-27 in person. “The paperwork is easy to do virtually ... but the best of the in-person training I went through is to know your team that you’re working with,” advertising management junior Xavier Thomas said. “... Once the pandemic initially hit we were mostly tasked with finding out which students were staying or not ... but then once a lot of people left, we were given the option to leave.” Thomas served as a Resident Assistant for the spring 2020 semester. Students interested in learning more about the position can attend information sessions 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 1 or 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4. The application will remain open until Feb. 5 at 11:59 pm. Applicants will be informed by Feb. 22 if they have advanced to the next step. Heather Asuncion, a former resident assistant of Bryan Hall in Brody Neighborhood, shares her thoughts on the new resident assistant policy on Jan. 24, 2021. Rahmya Trewern The State News

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PROFESSORS RESPOND TO MENTAL HEALTH WITHIN THEIR CLASSES Initiatives professors take to ensure their students are doing all right mentally

By Dina Kaur dina.kaur@statenews.com According to a 2015 study by the National College Health Assessment, “85% of college students reported that they had felt overwhelmed by everything they had to do at some point within the past year.” At Michigan State University, professors approach mental health in different ways, choosing what to include in their syllabi and how often they choose to check in on their students. Assistant Professor of psychology and social science William Chopik includes a few links to university centers and resources in his syllabus, some of the mental health information he includes falls under disability considerations as well as student wellness. Journalism professor Geri Zeldes takes it one step further and devotes a whole section to emotional self-care, which she feels is especially necessary for students at this time. She also has her students’ numbers, which helps her get in contact with them if need be. “I have all of my students text me, and that gives me an opportunity to, if I notice throughout the semester anything that flags they are struggling somewhat I will check on them via text just quickly just to see how they are doing,” Zeldes said. Chopik said that students often have “this perception that professors are either clueless or checked out and that they don’t care about students’ mental health.” However, often there is an underappreciated compassion professors have for their students. History professor Kirsten Fermaglich typically requires participation in her classes; however, she will always go out of her way to make sure that students are comfortable. If they have social anxiety issues, she is always willing to work with them to form a solution. Even though Fermaglich sets deadlines for her course, she is always willing to adjust based on the circumstances of students because “stuff happens” especially during COVID-19, such as if a student is taking care of a parent or sibling, having trouble with accessing Zoom due to the internet, or dealing with grief, anxiety and stress. However, Fermaglich said that students should get access to resources that can be more helpful than a professor and that professors should get more mental health training to bridge that gap. “People should be talking to counselors,” Fermaglich said. “Professors want to be helpful … I mean, they love their students. I love my students. They’re great people. You develop a lot of affection, and you really want to support people as much as you can but the fact is we’re not trained.” Amy Bonomi, a professor in human development and sexuality, starts off her class by asking her students if they have any major things happening in their lives through three questions: What brings you joy? What troubles you right now? What hopes do you have? This helps her better accommodate students. Bonomi also asked them to describe how they’re feeling. Many of the students said they were tired, hopeful, optimistic, stressed and overwhelmed. “Hungry was another big theme, so we want to be sure when we’re thinking about mental health or well-being that these basic needs are being met,” Bonomi said. “I think sometimes we take for granted or assume people have their basic needs met, but the reality is we have

Lansing community college freshman Katelyn Whiteman poses for a photo as she navigates D2L on Jan. 21, 2021. Devin Anderson-Torrez The State News

students who will fall in the category where they’re struggling financially and might not be able to have those needs met.” Zeldes said if students need a break when it comes to their mental health, she’s more than happy to talk them through it. Students need to get enough rest because sleeping is key to being able to thrive in an environment with COVID-19 and online classes, she said. Zeldes also suggested exercising, breathing deeply and drinking water. Health care, especially emotional health care, should be students’ top priority as “school will be there,” Zeldes said. “We’re not just conveyors of information,” Zeldes said. “We want our students to thrive and be able to move forward. Mental health care can be daunting in many levels and it inhibits progress forward.” Chopik said that the only way to end the stigma of mental health is to actively talk about mental health with students. “Toward the goal of trying to destigmatize these things, I think it’s important to advertise what’s available, make it more accessible to people, make it easier to sign up,” Chopik said. “It takes an incredible amount of strength to realize you need help and then go and seek that out.” Director of Student Wellness and Embedded Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) Counselor Jonathan Ritz said in an email that

faculty could add language to their syllabi that assures students they understand the significant health, financial and other stressors many students are facing and let students know it’s OK to reach out to them for help. Professors can also offer some flexibility in ways students can successfully fulfill class requirements. It’s also good to list campus resources students can use, particularly CAPS, Ritz said. There’s a document available that assists professors in tackling a student’s mental

health concern. He also said that faculty should take care of themselves as well. “Faculty should be mindful of the extra stress it puts on them when they provide emotional support to students,” Ritz said. “It’s important for faculty to reach out for support from colleagues, including MSU’s Employee Assistance Program. It’s the same message we want to give our students: Don’t feel like you have to take this on in isolation, all by yourself — you don’t.”





Column: What having a Black woman as the U.S. vice president means to me

By Janelle James jjames@statenews.com

It is such a privilege to be able to witness this historic day.

After Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election, I knew that it would be a long time before a woman even ran for that position. Fortunately, Vice President Kamala Harris proved me wrong. Harris has inspired me in more ways than I could imagine. Not only is she the first woman to serve as vice president but she is also a woman of African American and South Asian descent. When she first announced her bid for presidency, I did not think that she would make it this far. She is very intelligent and passionate about helping marginalized communities, but I thought that she would receive so much backlash that she would eventually drop out of the race. Despite people questioning her race and saying that she imprisoned Black men and women in California, she remained resilient with her head held high. I admire her strength throughout this process and I hope that someday I can embody that. I had the pleasure of meeting the new vice president during July 2019 at a watch party for the Democratic debates that took place in Detroit. Although we met briefly, she was so gracious. I remember telling her that I wrote an article about when she spoke at the presidential forum hosted by the National






The State News


TU ESDAY, JA NUA RY 26 , 202 1

When the world looks at me, they may see a young Black girl whose hair is naturally curly and whose skin is a couple of shades too dark. What I see when I look in the mirror is a Black woman who can be president. Association for the Advancement of Colored People that year and she was so excited for me. What makes me extremely proud about Vice President Harris is that she paved the way for the next generation of Black women in politics, including myself. She walked, so that I could run. My interest in politics began when I was in high school. By my junior year, I knew that I wanted to be a journalist, but I also knew that I wanted to use that to somehow contribute to politics. Of the many things I plan on accomplishing in the future, I one day hope to run for office. I have always had my doubts about becoming a politician and even disregarded it at some points, but now I know that my dream can become a reality. As a young Black woman, it makes me reflect on how I should see myself. When the world looks at me, they may see a young Black girl whose hair is naturally curly and whose skin is a couple of shades too dark. What I see when I look in the mirror is a Black woman who can be president. I see a Black woman who can help flip a state blue, and I see a Black woman who can make legislation that changes the negative connotation that is often associated with Black people. When I think of Kamala Harris, I also think of Shirley Chisholm, who was the first Black person and first Black woman to run for president. In 1972, she announced her campaign for presidency. Although she didn’t win the democratic nomination, the fact that Chisholm ran for president at all was a significant part of our progression as Black people and Black women. A lot of people in the Black community advocate for more Black politicians to run for office so that our country reflects its population. Now that Harris has become the vice president of the U.S., I think our community is one step closer to achieving that goal. I especially feel that Millennials and Generation Z will help further bring this into fruition because we have a blueprint. We have people like Harris, Stacey Abrams and Keisha Lance Bottoms to look to when it is time for us to fill these positions.

Continuing this legacy of Black excellence is the best way for me to show my gratitude and appreciation for Vice President Harris. Now that she serves in the second most powerful position in our country, I feel more secure about running for office one day.

Illustration by Daena Faustino


Column: The final chapter of college comes with an empty finality By Joe Dandron jdandron@statenews.com

I sat at my kitchen table debating how I wanted to start this column. I’m one of the lucky people in this world. I have had employment, a roof over my head and haven’t lost a family member or loved one to the COVID-19 virus that has killed over 400,000 in the United States. This past year has broken many things we always had intact. It has tested us as a nation and even as a human race. That’s heavy. So here’s a disclaimer because what I talk about here doesn’t carry that weight and gravity in our lives. I’m about to finally leave the place that has molded me into the man, student and soonto-be professional journalist that I hope to become. It isn’t filled with bar nights, packed parties, final spring breaks and the usual senior year experience. For good reason, safety is important and I often hold on to hope that this pandemic soon ends with the introduction of vaccines fighting it. When I walked into IM Sports East this morning with a mask on to shoot hoops alone, I remembered the first time four years ago I entered the same building. It was packed. This time, I was the only person in the gym. Like many things we do now, I did it alone. That’s our new reality. We all try our best to enjoy what time we have left in this phase of our lives before we have to start thinking about life after college. I don’t know if most people in my class have jobs lined up. I would bet that few do. That’s OK. We all have learned more about ourselves and others over this time, I think. For better or worse, that’s life. Now, life at MSU seems

empty. The campus is near empty. The sidewalks once filled with young adults rushing to class they didn’t want to attend replaced with icy winds and leaves. The emptiness of online class with people you likely will never meet in person and the inability to walk across the stage with your diploma. That moment is something I probably will regret not getting because when I saw my oldest sister become the first one in my immediate family to graduate from college, I realized what I had to do someday too. How lucky am I? I have spoken many things in my life into existence, with this being the latest one. I lived in Hubbard Hall — yeah, I’m lucky for that one. But sometimes it feels like all my luck ran out last spring. Finally. Online school and I, to say the least, do not get along. I am struggling more than I have academically for many reasons with online school compounding everything else. I clung to the time before that seems so far away: the late nights in our dorms as a freshman and trips to The Riv and Dublin Square with the group of friends we became adults with. Even if you still have no idea what you are doing as May 2021’s bells toll to beckon us into adulthood, you can at least reflect on the good old days. Now, I’ve begun to let that go as I enter the next stage of my life that hopefully will be spent in a more normal time than this. Those memories are ones I will always cherish. It’s a simpler stage of life. It’s a necessary sacrifice, not getting what seniors before me and others did, to someday get back to normal life. That’s important. But when I think about senior year, it’s difficult to recall what might stick out the most. My roommates, friends and I have tried to make the most of this. It works well at times. I will remember finally completing my degree, something many people I grew up around never did. I’m on the track I knew I wanted to be on as a 10-yearold when I decided that was where I would someday be. I will remember smoking cigars, gambling, the Browns going 11-5 to make the playoffs and getting to go one last round in East Lansing. Oh yeah, and Michigan

Even if you still have no idea what you are doing as May 2021’s bells toll to beckon us into adulthood, you can at least reflect on the good old days.

A student wears a decorated cap reading “Graduated. Ope.” at the Undergraduate Convocation Ceremony at the Breslin Student Events Center on May 3, 2019. State News File Photo

State somehow beating Michigan on the road with a quarterback that goes to Northern Illinois now. Can’t forget that one. Others might say different. That’s OK too. This is the strangest and most difficult time for many people in our country and likely that my generation will ever witness. Again, my experiences can’t compare to what has gone on around this nation. I stood, this senior year, for the first time at a protest. I got sick, didn’t see my family for the first time on Thanksgiving in my life. For as much emptiness as there is around us in East Lansing, I found myself filling the void with rebuilt friendships, family

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relationships and experiences I never had before. In the loneliness of some of these times, we find ways

to fill it with something. That’s human nature. But we probably all still have regrets, that happens in college.

I know I do. I don’t speak for all seniors. But what will you remember about this last year in college?

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MSU men’s basketball starts 2-4 in Big Ten play By Sara Tidwell stidwell@statenews.com The Michigan State men’s basketball team has played a total of 12 games in just under two months, with four postponements due to COVID-19 issues within programs. Their 2020-21 record through 12 games is 8-4, with losses to Northwestern, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Purdue. At this same place during the 201920 campaign, they were 9-3, with losses to Kentucky, Virginia Tech and Duke. The key difference? All three losses last season came in the non-conference slate. Michigan State is 2-4 in Big Ten action so far in 2020-21. Even if Trevion Williams misses the game-winning shot in Purdue’s comeback win in East Lansing, MSU is still 3-3 in conference play with several cancellations further complicating an already weird year. The records are similar, but MSU was in a very different place this time last year. Oh yeah, they also had All-American Cassius Winston and Xavier Tillman, who recently got his first career NBA start. We’ve gotten glimpses of both high and low scoring games, but whether at 109 points or 54 points, Head Coach Tom Izzo isn’t the only one who

Michigan State Men’s Basketball Standing Purdue 55, MSU 54

Jan. 8

MSU 68, Rutgers 45

Jan. 5

MSU 82, Nebraska 77

Jan. 2

Minnesota 81, MSU 56

Dec. 28

Sophomore guard Rocket Watts (2) moves with the ball during the game against Eastern Michigan on Nov. 25, 2020, at the Breslin Center. The Spartans defeated the Eagles, 83-67. Photo by Lauren DeMay

notices there’s something lacking. Could it be that their once welloiled rebounding machine has started to rust, with the green and white only currently out rebounding their opponents by 5.3 per game? MSU is allowing opponents this sea-

son to shoot above 40% and score more than 70 points per game. That’s seven points higher than last year when the Spartans held opponents to under 65 points a game. In the gauntlet that is the Big Ten men’s basketball season, here are three takeaways from the Spartans’ 2-4 start in the conference.


Sophomore guard Rocket Watts (2) shoots at the Oakland net in the second half during a 13-0 run. The Spartans came back after the first half to pull out a 109-91 win on Dec. 13, 2020. Photo by Lauren DeMay 12


After Tillman chose to leave his final season behind and enter the NBA Draft, MSU has had to fill a void in their defense. Tillman was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and made the second-team All-Big Ten in March 2020. He was the fifth Spartan in history to be given this title, joining former lottery pick Jaren Jackson Jr., who he now plays with for the Grizzlies. If we take a look at the statistics, 12 games into last season, Tillman had already snared 88 defensive rebounds, the most on the team. He ended his final season with a total of 237 defensive boards while averaging 10.3 total rebounds per game. This season, Joey Hauser is the only athlete to come close to Tillman’s numbers, with 80 defensive rebounds himself after 12 games. In the one season Hauser spent playing at Marquette from 2018-19, he only managed to tally a total of 150 defensive rebounds. The next highest scoring defensive rebounder this season is Aaron Henry, averaging 5.6 per game. Tillman was a leader both on and off the court. He made everyone around him better. That fact is why he already starts for his NBA team. The man does his job, he does it right and he does it well. Without him, MSU has fallen victim to unseen and unheard opponents. During the regular 2019-20 season, Tillman made it almost impossible to score on him, averaging more than two blocks per game. He gained steam as the week went on and performed admirably against threats such as Penn State’s Lamar Stevens, Ohio State’s Kaleb Wesson and for-

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mer Big Ten Player of the Year, Iowa’s Luka Garza. Defense is everything to Izzo, as fans know. In an interview with Big Ten Network’s Mike Hall, Tillman said that his best defensive tactic, if he had to pick one, would be his communication. “I make a huge point to point guys in directions, be the traffic cop for our team,” he said. “Getting guys over screens, telling guys to watch out for screens and just being that help-side guy for sure.” Who will be the next Tillman? MSU hasn’t answered that question and if they can’t, this season might end earlier than fans hope.


Henry has talent, both physically and intellectually. He too entered his name in the 2020 NBA Draft, but didn’t hire an agent and returned to school. He’s a solid athlete that plays with toughness and showcases athleticism on both ends, imposing his will at times on opposing wings and in the post. However, as a captain, he’s lacking something important: consistency. When the school’s winter break started, Henry’s mojo seemed to go on break as well. He barely scored against Northwestern on Dec. 20, 2020, against Wisconsin on Christmas and against Minnesota on Dec. 28, 2020, not scoring more than 12 points each time. Out of 142 field goals attempted, he’s shooting just above 43%. But on 35 attempts from three, he’s only made nine for an average of 25%. The junior started the year 3-for-19 from behind the arc. Henry needs to be more consistent in today’s basketball landscape if he wants to lead this Spartan team. He averages 13.9 points and averages 29.7 minutes per game. He also holds the most assists tallied on the team with 44. But, with the new year came new chances and a new Henry, that we’ve been able to see at least.

It was during the game against Rutgers, when Henry scored 20 points in a win over the ranked Scarlet Knights that again brought up what everyone wonders is possible: Henry can be the leader of this team. Something had clicked within the Indianapolis native’s mind and unsurprisingly the two games Henry had shined in are the only two conference wins for the squad.


The sophomore guard is alike and unlike Winston, who went on to be drafted by the Washington Wizards after graduation. Watts does things that Winston never could in ways he could not: score. Watts isn’t the passer that Winston was and to compare him to a twotime All American and MSU’s all-time leader in assists is unfair to an extent. Winston ran Izzo’s offense by the book, and it paid off. He ranks among the best of the Izzo era, having ended his time at MSU with a career-high of 32 points and the title of 2018-19 Big Ten Player of the Year. Watts, who was in the ESPN Top 100 recruits for his class, made incredible strides in his first three months on campus. In his second year now, he’s made himself a household name, much like Winston had done. Except, he hasn’t seemed to have proven to Izzo that he deserves the hype. It’s showing up in the stats, too: He has only scored in double digits once since Dec. 6, 2020. Out of 12 games played, Watts has only started in seven, having been replaced by freshman A.J. Hoggard and instead taking his turns coming into the game off the bench. He’s ranked third on the team, averaging 9.7 points and 22 minutes per game. Watts is a solid and strong, competitive and tough player who has the skills and ability to be dynamic in the position he plays. He has a rare combination of strength, speed, athleticism and shooting ability. But he needs to put it all together if it is going to work this season. Only time will tell if Watts is capable of that.

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The State News is published by the students of Michigan State University every other Tuesday during fall, spring and select days during summ...


The State News is published by the students of Michigan State University every other Tuesday during fall, spring and select days during summ...

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