In this year’s budget proposal, Gov. Rick Snyder (R) included a one-time appropriation of $500,000 for improving efforts to prevent sexual assault on college campuses in Michigan.
The proposal for exactly how the funds will be used has not totally been made clear. The plan for the funds reads: “The sexual assault prevention and education initiative will provide a system-wide approach to develop comprehensive prevention best practices, assessment strategies, and effective response efforts.”
So far, the only action that has been discussed is a potential forum between the Snyder administration and officials from Michigan universities. Cynthia Wilbanks, vice president of government relations at the University, said the University has been contacted about the forum.
“We don’t have a lot of details on the specific uses for the $500,000, but I can tell you that the governor’s wife has reached out to universities to help think about a forum that would be focused on sexual assault and prevention, and in this early discussion, I think the focus will be really around education and awareness,” she said.
Dave Murray, deputy press secretary for the Snyder administration, confirmed such a forum is currently up for discussion, but said it is just in the planning stages.
“Right now there are just no details,” Murray said. “They have not begun to put together the plan for those events.”
Mike Boulus, executive director for the President’s Council of the State Universities of Michigan, spoke on behalf of the university presidents of Michigan, saying they were all willing to work with Snyder on his proposed initiative.
“Governor Snyder’s commitment to this issue is to be commended,” Boulus wrote in an e-mail. “He mentioned that it was a priority during a recent meeting with presidents — and they all agree.”
University President Mark Schlissel has also said he wants to better address sexual assault on campus. In January, Schlissel announced plans to release a survey to gauge campus climate around sexual misconduct.
State Rep. Adam Zemke (D–Ann Arbor) said he did not have enough information to comment on the proposal at this time.
Murray said the forum and other brainstorming sessions will likely initiate ideas for new programs and policies. He said there hasn’t been a lot planning to date because the governor’s proposal still needs to achieve passage in the legislature, he said.
“Right now we’re in the appropriations part, and the legislature could accept that, or they could change it, or they could eliminate it,” he said. “We’re working with them on the budget now, it’s a process that won’t be determined fully until likely the end of June, that’s the goal. So there’s a lot of things that could happen between now and then.”
Murray said the Snyder administration is hopeful the legislature would choose to appropriate the $500,000 when deciding what to pass in the budget plan. He noted that because the legislature is a separate branch of government, the Snyder administration could not say much about what in the plan would be passed until the legislature released the final budget.
Wilbanks also noted that not a lot could be said about the proposed legislation at this time because it has yet to be approved by the legislature. However, she also said sexual assault on college campuses is an important issue for many legislators.
In February, Sen. Gary Peters (D–Mich.) co-sponsored legislation to bolster regulations to prevent sexual misconduct on college campuses.
“The appropriation has yet to be appropriated,” Wilbanks said. “So again, it’s one of the recommendations from the governor and it remains to be seen how strongly the legislature supports that appropriation. It’s a topic of high interest to the governor and to many policy makers; there’s certainly no argument with that.”