How does SGA handle sexual assault allegations and misconduct?

Allegations made on an anonymous social media app lead students to question what policy the student government association has for sexual assault misconduct.


Raven Roberts, Features Editor

The student government association for the 2022-2023 academic school year has faced joys as well as tribulations throughout the school year. With this being the first year back from the pandemic that SGA has been able to operate in its full capacity, the road has been bumpy.  

During this year’s election season, a statement was released by a candidate for SGA, who was later elected, disputing alleged sexual assault accusations. There was no statement made by the student government association or the office of student life and development (OSLD) in regards to these accusations at the time. Although the allegations were made on Fizz, an anonymous app used by Morgan students, the candidate still chose to address them on Instagram.

The candidate said he posted the statement because “someone had posted a Fizz about me saying that I sexually assaulted someone and that was not true in any type sort of way.”

Although Fizz is an anonymous social media platform, users enter their school email address in order to access their university’s virtual community. The most popular or upvoted post of all time on Morgan’s Fizz has 1,900 upvotes signaling that there have likely been at least 1,900 accounts with Morgan email addresses on the app. 

Yasmine Bryant, founder and president of Students Against Sexual Assault and Harassment (S.A.S.H.A.),  said the student government association has not done their due diligence to acknowledge and address the accusations. 

“SGA this year missed a lot of the marks that they were supposed to hit and that they promised the student body. It’s absolutely irresponsible and it’s disrespectful to the student body to have leaders in SGA that have been accused of that [sexual assault] and then to not be transparent about what is going on, and whether or not them moving forward in SGA is justified and deserved.” 

There isn’t a formal section in the SGA Bylaws about handling sexual assault within the administration. However, under the description of responsibilities of the research and advocacy director it states, “Gathering and processing vital information in relation to grievances, issues, and concerns of the Morgan State University student body.” 

Morgan’s current SGA administration does not have a research and advocacy director. According to Brooke Foyles, SGA president-elect, the incoming administration will.

SGA is one of the highest forms of student leadership on campus, and the people who hold these positions are determined by the votes from the student body. This occurs after candidates go through a formal process that verifies their eligibility to run. Candidates must have above a 2.5 GPA, no judicial sanctions, and must meet the appropriate credit hours for each board. 

SGA has no removal policy for students alleged misconduct of sexual assault who have not been found liable by the university, said Jaden Dawson, current SGA president.

“Our office and our administration based on our constitutional bylaws, cannot take any action to scrutinize, malign or isolate a student unless we’re given the documentation necessary which would be a judicial citation or report of misconduct from the university,” Dawson said.

When asked about SGA’s policy pertaining to members accused of sexual assault, the candidate said, “Honestly, I do not know as a whole of what SGA’s policy as to handling that situation, when that happens to someone.” They said to their knowledge the policy is just communicating with other members of SGA and explaining the situation and so that is what he did.

“Those people had my back. They understood the type of person I am. I didn’t get no type of like, criticism from anybody, especially in SGA. They just let me know like this is a serious topic, but at the same time, I know who you are as a person,” he said. 

Another member of SGA told the Spokesman he also does not know SGA’s policy for handling sexual assault allegations against members.

The candidate said he has not been formally investigated by SGA, the university or police. However, he met with the Title IX coordinator who told him they would look into the situation and shared the Fizz posts alleging he committed sexual assault and his statement responding to the allegation(s). 

“They were just like one, it’s anonymous. You said you’re going to cooperate with law enforcement, you came out to talk to us. We haven’t gotten reports of this, that, and the third being said about you, no one has come up and said anything about your name or any story that’s even close to what they’re assuming on Fizz,” he said, describing his interaction with the coordinator. “But as of recently, they’ve already let me know and hit me up saying that so far nothing has come up about your name,” he continued.

Larry Jones, assistant vice president for the office of public relations and communications, said in a statement, “All Morgan students are bound to adhere to the University’s Code of Student Conduct, regardless of their academic standing, classification or organizational affiliation. All students found to be in violation of the Code of Student Conduct are referred to the office of student rights and responsibilities (OSRR) to undergo their due process and face any disciplinary actions warranted.”

Bryant, president and founder of S.A.S.H.A. said, “If it’s not required, I don’t believe the Student Government Association will go out of their way to make a public stance on anything regarding victims of sexual assault. Of course, it’s given that it looks good for cameras and it looks good for public reputation to say ‘yes, we support,’ but, you know, support without action is pretty much like no support.” 

She said because of the lack of transparency and integrity from the previous administration she has little hope for the new administration or any changes they might make to better support victims of sexual assault.

Dawson, president of SGA for the 2022-2023 academic school year, said she would not feel comfortable releasing a statement on behalf of SGA unless there was a formal investigation or report filed. 

“I would never want to silence the opinions of victims or students on this campus at all. But it would not be appropriate to make a statement on something that isn’t currently being investigated to my knowledge,” Dawson said.

She emphasized that the candidate’s statement came during election season, a transition period. “There is only so much you can do on a transition and there’s also so much that you can do without documentation.”

The candidate, who was later elected, told the Spokesman that he doesn’t think SGA should have released a statement because the accusations came from an anonymous app and didn’t carry the same weight that they may have if posted on more popular and more public apps like Twitter or Instagram.

When asked about her expectations for the 2023-2024 SGA administration, Bryant said she has little hope due to the lack of transparency displayed in the 2022-2023 administration.

Bryant thinks that SGA could “take the initiative in being transparent and really making sure that the student leaders that are in office are deserving, or truly have a clean record,” if they are pushed to do so by OSLD. 

“But as of right now, from what I’ve seen from this past year I don’t have hope for that,” Bryant said.

“What I have done going into sexual assault has been researching and understanding what sexual assault is. Some people might think sexual discomfort is assault. Some people don’t know the difference between the two. So I’ve just been doing my research and looking into what really sexual assault is,” the candidate said.

Dawson, president of SGA for the 2022-2023 academic school year, meets with the Title IX Coordinator and other members of administration regularly to support victims of sexual assault. She encourages students who have been mistreated to report these instances to the proper channels and university officials. 

Tara Berrien, Title IX coordinator, does not disclose the amount of reports of sexual assault she receives or manages, however the Title IX office has a legal obligation to pursue every allegation of misconduct brought to them. 

According to the university’s 2022 Campus Security Report, three incidents of rape at Morgan State university were reported in 2019, and none in 2020 or 2021. Additionally, four incidents of fondling were reported in 2019 and none in either of the following two years. In 2021, two cases of statutory rape were reported. 

“I wouldn’t say that there’s a climate of rape at Morgan,” Larry Jones, assistant vice president of public relations and strategic communications told The Spokesman.