A letter from President Bob Davies to the CMU community

CMU's president-elect Robert O. Davies smiles as he walks through campus on Aug. 3 at Central Michigan University.

We are a community. Will we stand as one?

The CM Life team last week, through a series of articles, addressed and highlighted an important and critical matter facing our community — the issue of sexual misconduct and assault. A team of reporters and editors described sexual misconduct and sexual assault in different forms — all unacceptable and all leaving unwanted, indelible marks on those involved.

They shared valuable information about resources and education available on campus. They also told the story of a survivor, who courageously stepped forward to support and encourage other survivors. Her story is intended to make a significant difference in our society by raising awareness of changes necessary in our culture and showing that we cannot accept these heinous acts in any form.

Rachel Wilson, you are brave, you are a leader, you are needed, and you are valued. Emma Dale, Emilly Davis and Ashley Schafer, your journalistic efforts and skills are commendable. All four of you have made a positive impact. Know that I thank you, and I stand with each of you.

The key for us, as individuals and as a community, is to come together, understanding and admitting this is a critical issue that must be addressed. We, most importantly, must say this kind of abhorrent behavior will not be tolerated. 

Many will note that this is a national crisis as all universities are wrapped in this dialog. Many will say it is too big to handle or that one individual cannot make a difference. I firmly disagree. We must act locally. We can, as a community, make a difference — here at CMU, in our region, in our state — and set the example. We must stay together, and we must take action.  

In my relatively short time here at CMU, I have met with many offices and areas and discussed our campus climate and how we support survivors. From what I have learned, I am proud of the efforts of our Civil Rights and Institutional Equity and Title IX Office. I am proud and inspired by the work of our Sexual Aggression Peer Advocates. I also am proud of our police, counselors and advisors, residence life and student affairs staffs, and faculty and staff who support our students, and I am honored to be associated with them.  

I attended the Tarana Burke lecture, heard students and talked individually with many that evening. I learned from their voices and through their eyes.        

From these interactions, as well as those with statewide leaders, I have learned that CMU is viewed as a leader in campus education and support. Our sexual misconduct policy has helped set standards across the state and nation. SAPA is a national model. Our educational efforts include online and in-person educational modules, SAPA’s No Zebras training, guest speakers, and conversations in a multitude of settings. The Interfraternity Council, Collegiate Panhellenic Council and National Pan-Hellenic Council (our Greek Life governing boards) also are instituting new programs and requirements for their members.

The OCRIE office has introduced the #ConsentIsCentral campaign and added staff to process complaints more quickly and expand its services. We are taking a fair and hard line with those who violate our policies, our values and our trust. 

There is no question that we have created programs and made changes to help, assist and support survivors. However, we can, we should, and we will do more to serve and bolster our support for survivors. We must strive also to prevent occurrences of sexual assault by continuing to improve our culture of safety and security, fostering respect and dignity for all, and holding each other accountable.

To that end, I am appointing a Presidential Title IX Advisory Board that will provide advice on a range of issues including training, education, support services, prevention programming and resources. This team will help develop training curriculum and a campus resource/support team for complainants and respondents. It will spread awareness about our processes, ensure proper transparency, and provide advice regarding ongoing education and awareness. 

Members of the Advisory Board will include representatives from SAPA, Counseling Center, Council of Deans, CARE team, Student Conduct, Athletics, Student Government Association, Greek Life, NAACP, Residence Life, CMU Police, Student Success, our Student Ombudsperson, faculty and others who will provide insights, ideas and value to our efforts. The board will be led by Katherine Lasher, OCRIE executive director and university Title IX coordinator, and will report directly to me.  

We will establish an aggressive timeline for its work as we cannot wait or delay. Sexual assault and misconduct cannot, will not, be tolerated in our campus community.

We have a choice. We can tell ourselves sexual assault only happens elsewhere, or we can address the facts about what occurs on our campus. CMU’s core values are integrity, respect, compassion, inclusiveness, social responsibility, excellence and innovation. Each of these, along with our leadership standards, implore us to lead, be courageous, be accountable and be proactive. Now is the time we put those words, phrases and thoughts into action.

We have a choice. We can sit and say, “This doesn’t impact me, and I can’t do anything about it.” Or, we can lead. We can set a path for change and make a difference. I choose the latter, and I am asking you to stand with me and be active in addressing the root causes of this epidemic.  

The choice is ours.  

Let’s make the right one and stand together. 

—President Davies