GV receives largest portion of sexual assault program funds

GVL / Ben Hunt Avoiding sexual assault. 12/1/18. GVSU Allendale Campus.

GVL / Ben Hunt Avoiding sexual assault. 12/1/18. GVSU Allendale Campus.

Shiloh Reynolds

First introduced by First Lady of Michigan Sue Snyder in 2015, the State of Michigan has been allocating annual funding to universities to combat sexual assault through Michigan’s Campus Sexual Assault Grant Program. This year, the state granted a total of one million dollars to 22 Michigan universities, with Grand Valley State University receiving $248,039—the largest proportion of funds given out to any school.

GVSU’s Assistant Director of Public Safety and Captain Kourosh Khatir said that while it is unknown why GVSU received the largest amount, the campus’ police department is thankful for the large monetary award.

“We (at the Grand Valley Police Department) are humbled and very grateful for the award,” Khatir said. “Grand Valley State University has always been a good steward of the state’s money, and we have a demonstrated track record of putting student safety and student success, as our focus and goal.”

The majority of the grant money will be used to implement additional security features on campus, such as upgrading current cameras. Khatir said that the goal of the camera upgrades is to “create a comprehensive system across the university’s campuses that will provide coverage to open public areas and expand the use of technologies to better identify suspects and witnesses.” The camera project is scheduled to be completed between one to two years.

The remaining $50,983 of the grant will go toward prevention programs. GVSU Victim Advocate Krystal Diel said this money will help continue P.E.P. Talks. Led by student facilitators, P.E.P. Talks focus on bystander intervention skills.

“Research shows that peers educating peers on bystander intervention is (the) best practice (for bystanders to learn how to combat sexual assault),” Diel said. “This grant will be able to continue this important work and continue to pay our students who engage in this work.”

In addition to P.E.P. Talks, the grant money will also help implement a new program in GVSU’s Center of Women and Gender Equity that will focus on helping men learn violence prevention skills.

Freshman Kaitlyn Sundling said that she wished the state could also allocate funding to increase security around the local community, such as off-campus apartments. In regards to how safe she felt on GVSU’s campus, Sundling said that she feels much more comfortable on campus than off. 

“On campus, it’s pretty good,” Sundling said. “Not a lot of stuff happens on campus. It’s usually off-campus because everyone is driven to leave because of policies (relating to alcohol), and that’s where assaults happen.”

At the beginning of Michigan’s Campus Sexual Assault Grant Program in 2015, GVSU had eight counts of sexual offenses that occurred on the Allendale Campus, according to data issued by the university’s annual security report. In 2017, the number of offenses had shrunk in half. While it is hard to gauge changes in criminal activity over a short time frame, Khatir said that GVPD has noted “an increase in reporting.”  

“I think the university’s collective efforts with regard to combating sexual assault has resulted in victim/survivors being more willing to come forward and report,” Khatir said.

Other local university recipients of this year’s grant include Ferris State University with $39,675, Wayne State University with $17,585 and the University of Michigan with $21,091.