By Sonja Fritzsche on February 7, 2018
Since August 2017, I have been an Associate Dean at Michigan State University. For months, I have been reading of the accusations against Larry Nassar in the press. I watched the testimonies of the courageous women during his trial in Ingham County, and on February 1, I attended the Town Hall on campus with Trustee Mosallam. There I heard many more bold testimonies from students representing a broad spectrum of identities and experiences. As a white woman, it is time that I must also speak, not as a survivor, but in support of the survivors. Statistics show that 1 in 5 women have been a victim of sexual assault. This rate is much higher for women of color. It is way past time that victims of sexual abuse and assault are simply believed and treated like the human beings they are. It is that simple. Below is what must happen next here at MSU and beyond.
Remember the Survivors
As we talk of bureaucracy, as we focus on structure, as we transform this institution, remember the survivors. As we reach out, as we connect, as we organize, remember the survivors. This is not a short-term crisis. This demands long-term cultural change. This is not just about sex; it is about power and about silencing and resistance.
Those survivors are not only outside MSU — those brave 260+ women who spoke and made the world listen — but also here inside MSU. The student in your 8 a.m. class, your graduate student advisee, the staff member in your office, your faculty colleague down the hall. They are survivors too. Your sister, your mother, your daughter, your son. Across racial, sex, and gender identities we must listen, see, and support the survivors of past and ongoing sexual assault on our campus.
We all heard for 16 months about the survivors of Nassar…and did nothing. We at MSU waited for our former President to act. We were told there was a process. We kept our heads down. We waited for someone else to do the job. Shame on us.
But…HOW COULD WE?
Why do we only speak now? Because the world is shocked at our doorstep? Because our masks were ripped off? Are we not entrusted with a public mission? Let us teach by example. Let us listen and then hear.
We cannot afford to let this moment pass us. We cannot continue as we have. We cannot forget to act. The institutional structures of power that enforced silence must be dismantled. They must be replaced by a culture of care, a culture of safety, a culture of trust, a culture of openness, and ultimately, a culture of equity. From bottom to top and top to bottom, we must demand transparency from every unit at all administrative levels. Do not wait. Demand accountability from yourself and others. Speak out and choose to lead from where you are. Choose to model safety and trust, so that others might watch, learn, and heal. Take care of your own house. The College and University consist of these houses.
And when all are empowered, when all are engaged, when we all see the strength in our own diversity – all survivors will be honored. And in our unity, we will never forget, because the survivors cannot.
Associate Dean of Personnel, Administration & Undergraduate Education