#ComplicitMSU needs a second look

More stories from Markell Braxton-Johnson

The word “complicit” has been thrown around a lot lately. Specifically, the word has been adjoined to charges that MSU’s administrators have been complicit in sexual assault and misconduct on campus. Complicity is generally defined as direct involvement with others in criminal activity, and synonyms include “cover-up” and “collusion.” If we are to honestly interpret the aforementioned claim using that definition, then we are to infer that administrators have covered up sexual misconduct in the past and are conspiring to do so today. If this is the general sentiment of the student body, allow me to play Devil’s advocate.

I first submit to you actions administrators took prior to the recent charges of complicity. Chief among them is the wealth of resources easily accessible to all students. They include mental health resources (such as free psychiatric and counseling services, crisis intervention), in-person or online reporting forms, contact information for sexual assault investigators (including Title IX coordinators and state police) and frequently asked questions.

Moreover, the university constantly updates the sexual misconduct policy section of the MSU Code of Student Conduct. Each year, it is revised to accurately reflect the demands of not only the federal/state government, but also students. In this annually updated document, administrators detail every step they take during sexual misconduct investigations and outline progressive policies (i.e. offering victims amnesty for infractions related to the incident and various accommodations). This is the exact opposite of what complicit individuals would do.

Some students went further and suggested that the administration didn’t listen to students’ comments and questions, let alone take them to heart. I was at the campus safety forum last Monday, and my reading of the event was considerably different. I recall numerous times, after a question was addressed, a university official would ask earnestly “did that answer your question” to students who seemed nonplussed. Additionally, several times administrators encouraged follow-up questions to be levied against them. They wanted to extinguish all the concerns students had, and for that they should be commended.

I am not arguing that every answer administrators gave was sufficient. However, I am disputing the claims that the administration trivialized or dodged questions posed by students. Administrators made themselves available, both in private and in public, to take tough, uncomfortable questions. They stood unobstructed in front of the campus community and put their names and faces to the positions they took. The same cannot be said about the creators/leaders of #ComplicitMSU.

The role of administrators in sexual misconduct investigations is incredibly difficult. They are judged by measures to prevent sexual misconduct as well as their reaction to said misconduct. Moreover, they are obligated to maintain fairness, privacy and consistent procedures to all parties involved. There is room for the university to do better in matters of sexual misconduct – even the administrators acknowledge that. However, I judge the recent lamenting of MSU administrators to be unfair and slightly irresponsible. I don’t want to dissuade anyone from holding powerful people accountable, but I did want to offer that good-faith, contrarian viewpoint.

Markell Braxton-Johnson is a sports and leisure junior.