Prosecutor lambastes Michigan State University for stonewalling Nassar sexual abuse probe

Dec. 21, 2018
Investigation asserts that the university's failure to act enabled faculty member Larry Nassar to continue abusing gymnasts and other women and girls.

The Michigan Attorney General’s Office says Michigan State University’s “culture of indifference and institutional protection” contributed to hundreds of women and girls being sexually abused by faculty member Larry Nassar.

That is the conclusion of a special prosecutor brought in to investigate the university's handling of sexual assault complaints against Nassar, The Lansing State Journal reports.

The prosecutor's report says university employees failed to report concerns about Nassar, provides new details of a 2014 Title IX investigation, and shows how top university officials tried to stonewall the independent investigation.

“An institution truly interested in the truth would not have acted as MSU has,” wrote William Forsyth, who led the investigation. “MSU’s initial decision to hire a private law firm to conduct its internal investigation, its subsequent refusal to release the results of that investigation and waive attorney-client privilege, along with its insistence on having its attorneys attend witness interviews, have made it virtually impossible to know exactly what happened at MSU during the Nassar years."

The report identifies 11 Michigan State University employees who were told about Larry Nassar's abuse from 1997 to 2015

Nassar was a faculty member at the university's College of Osteopathic Medicine until he was fired in September 2016. While working for years with USA Gymnastics, which was the national governing body for the sport, he treated hundreds of female athletes.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette hired Forsyth, a retired prosecutor, to lead the investigation.. Attorney General-elect Dana Nessel will take office in January, and her administration will oversee the prosecutions of former MSU President Lou Anna Simon, former dean William Strampel, and former gymnastics coach Kathie Klages, all charged through Forsyth’s investigation.  

Although Forsyth will depart the investigation at the end of the year, he said his work isn’t over. Prosecutors are still fighting in court for 177 documents the university won’t release.

To date, the investigators have contacted almost 550 people, including interviews of more than 280 victims and 105 current or former MSU employees. They’ve reviewed about 105,000 documents, consisting of almost 500,000 pages.

Central to Forsyth’s investigation was who at the university may have been aware of Nassar’s abuse and failed to act.

Employees who allegedly received reports of Nassar’s sexual assault or improper medical treatment "downplayed its seriousness or affirmatively discouraged the survivors from proceeding with their allegation,” Forsyth wrote.

“That so many survivors independently disclosed to so many different MSU employees over so many years, each time with no success, reveals a problem that cannot be explained as mere isolated, individual failures; it is evidence of a larger cultural problem at the MSU Sports Medicine Clinic and MSU more broadly.”

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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