ALLENDALE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The state is giving colleges and universities $1 million as part of its annual grant program to help prevent sexual assaults.
Launched in 2015 by first lady Sue Snyder, The Campus Sexual Assault Grant Program has provided $2.5 million in grant funding.
Out of the 22 colleges and universities awarded grants this year, Grand Valley State University will get the largest amount: $248,000.
Most of the grant, just under $200,000, will go to upgrade security.
The university is investing upwards of $3 million in new cameras, some equipped with facial recognition technology on the Allendale and downtown Grand Rapids campuses.
The cameras will give investigators both surveillance and forensic capabilities.
“The surveillance would act as an overwatch in open areas for example, and the forensic part would be cameras that help us identify suspects and witnesses that can actually see facial features,” said GVSU Deputy Public Safety Director Kourosh Khatir.
While law enforcement plays an important role, experts say sexual assault prevention efforts go well beyond security measures.
“I think we really limit our understanding of sexual violence when we only think of prevention as lights and cameras,” said Krystal Diel, victim advocate with GVSU’s Gayle Davis Center for Woman and Gender Equity.
Diel says her department will receive nearly $51,000 in state funds for programs to educate student on prevention. That includes programs like the Peer Education and Prevention, or PEP talks.
It’s a program which sends trained student volunteers to campus gatherings.
“… And talk about what does it means to intervene. And how to help a friend. And that’s really great and powerful because when students are sharing it with students, they’re more receptive to that message,” Diel said.
Other West Michigan Schools receiving grant awards are:
- Western Michigan University: $132,557
- Albion College: $71,030
- Davenport University: $22,225
- Aquinas College: $11,695
Diel says while law enforcement’s role is important in keeping student safe from sexual assault, the efforts of the Gayle Davis Center are proving results as well.
More victims are coming forward, knowing they will get the support they need.
As for the state’s decision to give GVSU nearly one-quarter of the money available, Diel points to the school’s commitment to fixing the issue.
“We’ve had that commitment and the state is recognizing that commitment,” Diel said.