Emily Taylor, junior criminology major and chief interpersonal violence prevention commissioner of the student government association, is currently in the process of meeting with Missouri State University officials to update syllabi across the campus. The update encourages instructors to be “less robotic” when dealing with student reports concerning harassment.
The update parallels one made by a Washington State University professor in honor of her late daughter.
On Oct. 22, 2018 Lauren McCluskey was murdered by a man she had formerly dated outside her dorm at the University of Utah. Prior to her murder, McCluskey attempted to reach out to campus safety officials concerning the man, but she was met with little to no response.
After her murder, Lauren’s mother Jill wrote and passed a syllabi update for Washington State University, where she is a professor.
The syllabi begin by stating Lauren’s Promise: “I will listen and believe you if someone is threatening you.” The syllabus also includes information for students to use when they feel threatened, such as a crisis hotline and psychological services offered by WSU.
The original syllabus model was focused on the WSU campus. Taylor’s updated Lauren's Promise syllabus model would change phone numbers and locations to those on or near the MSU campus area.
Taylor said when creating her draft, she wanted to make students realize professors are there for them. The second was to err on the side of the victim and make sure students realize they have a space to take their concerns.
Taylor also stressed involvement between instructors and students. While instructors will remain “mandated reporters” for harassment, students who go to them will be treated with respect and belief they are in trouble, unlike McCluskey’s case.
“This is more so on the side of victims who have not been heard in the past,” Taylor said. “I guess my goal in all of this is to just prove to students, literally anybody, that people are out there that care about you and believe you, and know that they will get better and we are there to offer the services to help you get better.”
Jacynda Ammons, MSU history instructor, said she thoroughly reads her syllabus to each class so they know she takes it seriously.
“It should be more than just a statement that you put into your syllabus,” Ammons said. “It should be something that you are going to follow through with and that you do believe and make sure the students know that so they can reach out when they need something.”
Ammons said while professors can stress the information they are presenting from their syllabi, it is also up to the student to pay attention and use those resources when needed.
Taylor’s syllabus draft was scheduled to be reviewed by the Provost Office on Tuesday, Feb. 16, but due to inclement weather, the campus has been closed and the decision pushed back. Taylor hopes that the new draft will be implemented for the fall 2021 semester.
Follow Tinsley Merriman on Twitter, @merrimantinsley
Subscribe to The Standard's free weekly newsletter here.