A message from President Haas:

Thomas Haas

The safety of the campus community is my highest priority, and among public safety issues none is more sensitive than sexual assault. It is incumbent on all of us to create and maintain a campus climate in which sexual assault is unthinkable. That’s why I asked Student Senate President Andrew Plague for permission to address the senate on this subject, and I did so on October 23. I was accompanied by the university’s Title IX officer Dwight Hamilton, Chief Renee Freeman of the GVSU Police Department, Vice Provost and Dean of Students Bart Merkle, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Andy Beachnau, and Victim Advocate Theresa Rowland. Together, my colleagues and I briefed the senate on how we investigate reports of assault, how we support and assist those reporting an assault, and how we deal with those accused of assault.

Let me be perfectly clear: we do not tolerate sexual assault. At Grand Valley, our first response is to protect and assist victims and, when and if the victim wishes, to explain how the state legal system and campus investigative and judicial processes can be accessed. The Women’s Center and the university’s Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) stand ready with comfort and support for victims. We notify the campus community of assault reports as required by law, especially when the assailant is unknown or when law enforcement authorities make a determination that the campus faces a continuing risk. The victim advocate is available to explain options to victims and to ensure that immediate health care and victim services are available. The victim advocate can also be a voice for victims, consistent with a victim’s wish for confidentiality in such a deeply sensitive matter.

I’m grateful the Student Senate made time for this essential discussion. I’m also pleased by their leadership in sponsoring an open forum that includes this topic Thursday at 4:30 in the Multi-Purpose room of the Mary Idema Pew Library.

As we all know, the university has been advised by the U.S. Department of Education that it received a complaint about how it handled an incident of sexual assault. We have not been told about the particular incident under review, who filed it, or why. Grand Valley is fully cooperating with the department in its review.

The university has had sexual assault protocols in effect for years. Our expectations, policies, practices and services are announced each year at Transitions, as well as at other informational presentations, and can be accessed online at www.gvsu.edu/women_cen/sexual-assault-considerations-and-resources-27.htm. The Student Code contains additional information concerning the judicial process that all members of the campus community should review.

I have every expectation that the U.S. Department of Education will find that the university is committed to and is making good faith efforts to comply with its Title IX obligations.

I also expect that all members of the Laker community will do their part to follow the policies and will assist at any time they see or hear of an action that may be placing someone at risk.

Thomas J. Haas, President