EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – The investigation into Mel Tucker’s sexually charged phone call with a university contractor, educator and rape survivor has been based on an MSU policy.

6 News confirmed Tuesday that despite initial reports calling the investigation a Title IX complaint, it has actually been reviewed under the university’s Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct (RVSM) policy. Title IX is a federal civil rights law prohibiting discrimination based on gender in education and dictated by federal regulations.

In contrast, a policy violation investigation covers a broader set of circumstances and applies to non-education-related instances.

Laura Rugless, MSU vice president, and Office of Civil Rights/Title IX Coordinator, says when the university receives a complaint it has procedures to follow.

“When we receive a report, one of the first things we do is look at coverage under the policies,” she says.

Brenda Tracy accused Tucker of sexual harassment in a complaint filed in December 2022. While all complaints filed with her office hold the same weight, they can be handled differently.

“When it’s sexual harassment, for example, under the Title IX regulations, it has to be severe, pervasive and persistent,” she says. “So, there’s this high threshold. Under the RVSM definition of sexual harassment, it doesn’t have to reach that threshold.”

That policy includes definitions of consent as well as prohibits conduct such as stalking.

“Under Title IX, there are regulations that govern formal grievance procedures for sexual harassment,” Rugless says. “But at Michigan State, we address relationship violence, sexual misconduct even when it falls outside that legal criteria.”

Tucker admitted to a phone conversation with Tracy in which he masturbated. He claims it was consensual; Tracy denies it. He also argued the phone call had nothing to do with the university and was outside of the scope of Title IX or any university policy.

A third-party investigator determined the conduct did meet basic requirements to be subjected to an investigation, leading to Tucker’s March 2023 interview in which he acknowledged the phone call.

Rugless says the process related to either the federal law or university policy is similar.

“The distinction is really relatively insignificant in terms of the process,” she says. “So, it there is Title IX coverage, the case must go to hearing. If there is no Title IX coverage, then there’s a hearing only if parties and accounts are disputed in a material way.”

She says her office is a resource for students and staff members.

“We have a center for survivors,” she says. “These are confidential – or exempt – from reporting, places where people can seek help and services.”

The university will hold a hearing into the investigatory report completed and submitted to MSU on July 25 on October 5 and 6.