Nov. 18 2015 10:02 AM

Students file federal civil rights lawsuit against MSU, fraternity

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 18 — Four women who were alleged victims of sexual assault filed a federal civil rights lawsuit today accusing Michigan State University and a fraternity of violating federal civil rights laws designed to protect victims of sexual assault, sexual violence and sexual harassment.

The suit names the Board of Trustees, Denise Maybank, vice president of student affairs; Lou Anna Simon, president of MSU; and Kappa Sigma Fraternity.

The 26-page federal complaint, filed in the federal Western District Court in Grand Rapids, outlines allegations of MSU’s failure to respond appropriately and in a timely manner to allegations of sexual assault. Two of the women chose to be identified in the lawsuit, Emily Kollaritsch and Shayna Gross. The two other women are referred to in court records as Jane Roe 1 and Jane Roe 2.

“The utter lack of immediate and adequate response by MSU officials to these and other complaints of sexual violence experienced by its students is reprehensible,” said Alex Zalkin, an attorney for the plaintiffs. Zalkin is from the Zalkin Law Firm of San Diego, Calif.

The lawsuit comes two-and-a-half months the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights found MSU had failed to properly address the sexual assaults of other women on campus. That finding resulted in a consent agreement wherein MSU agreed to provide more education on sexual assault and address policy concerns. Sexual assault and other former of sexual discrimination are protected under what is called Title IX. Violations of the law can result in loss of federal funding as well as lawsuits against the public educational institution.

Zalkin and his clients said at a press conference they see no evidence of a change in how MSU handles sexual assault allegations and investigations. Kollaritsch said while MSU has allegedly made sexual assault and harassment training mandatory, that, in fact, it was not.

“It’s not actually mandatory,” she said. “It should be.”

MSU declined to comment on the litigation. “Sexual misconduct in all of its forms is an issue university leaders take very seriously,” spokesman Jason Cody said via email. “Over the past several years, MSU has taken significant steps to increase resources for survivors and revise policies to hear complaints in a timely and fair manner consistent with federal guidance.”

Kollaritsch and Gross alleged that they were sexually assaulted by the same male student, Kollaritsch said the man attempted to assault her in Case Hall in October 2011. Kollaritsch said the man did assault her in the stands during an MSU football game. Gross alleges that the same man assaulted her in February 2013. The lawsuit also alleges the same man was involved in a third sexual assault of a female student during an MSU ROTC program.

Jane Roe 1 was allegedly assaulted on campus in November 2013, while Jane Roe 2 was allegedly in August 2013.

Jane Roe 2 is the same student whose perpetrator was expelled, but he sued to prevent his expulsion during spring semester 2014. When the semester was complete, the man dropped his lawsuit against MSU and transferred to the University of Michigan. City Pulse reported on this case in June.