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Former MSU faculty member Larry Nassar is serving a long prison sentence for sexually abusing female gymnasts and other women.

Michigan State University fined $4.5 million by U.S. Education Department over Nassar scandal

In announcing the largest ever levied for violations of the Clery Act, the department says MSU failed to protect students from sexual abuse.

Michigan State University has been fined a record $4.5 million for its problems in handling the Larry Nassar sexual abuse case, the U.S. Education Department has announced.

The Detroit Free Press reports that in addition to the fine, Michigan State must must hire an outside law firm to review all sex assault case decisions made by the university's Title IX office and issue a report to the federal government.

MSU also must conduct a sweeping investigation into who knew what and didn't act on both the Nassar case and his boss, William Strampel, who was recently convicted of criminal charges.

"Because it failed to promptly and equitably respond to reports and grievances alleging sexual harassment perpetrated by Employee X (Larry Nassar) and the Dean (William Strampel) and failed to take appropriate actions reasonably calculated to end the harassment, eliminate the hostile environment, and prevent the harassment from recurring," the Office of Civil Rights says in a 54-page finding.

Nassar was a doctor at MSU, as well as the team doctor for USA Gymnastics. Hundreds if girls and young women accused him of sexual misconduct. He has been sentenced to 60 years in prison on federal child pornography charges. He also faces lengthy prison sentences for state sexual assault convictions. Those sentences will not begin until he finishes the federal sentence.

Strampel has been sentenced to a year in jail, after being convicted of using his power as dean of MSU's College of Osteopathic Medicine to proposition and control female medical students. 

The $4.5 million fine imposed by the education department is based on "four serious findings of Clery Act noncompliance:"

  • Finding #1: Failure to Properly Classify Reported Incidents and Disclose Crime Statistics
  • Finding #2: Failure to Issue Timely Warnings in Accordance with Federal Regulations
  • Finding #3: Failure to Identify and Notify Campus Security Authorities and to Establish an Adequate System for Collecting Crimes Statistics from all Required Sources
  • Finding #4: Lack of Administrative Capability

"What transpired at Michigan State was abhorrent, inexcusable, and a total and complete failure to follow the law and protect students," Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said. "Michigan State will now pay for its failures and will be required to make meaningful changes to how it handles Title IX cases moving forward. No future student should have to endure what too many did because concerns about Larry Nassar and William Strampel were ignored."

In immediate fallout from the education department's announcement, MSU Provost June Youatt has resigned from the university, sources told the Free Press. Youatt, the number-two person at the university responsible for the academic side of the institution, was specifically called out by the education department for failing to take action in the Strampel case.

As a result of the investigation, Michigan State has signed a resolution agreement to address Title IX violations. The university must:

  • Make substantial changes to the University's Title IX procedures and ensure that certain officials recuse themselves from Title IX matters
  • Take remedial actions to address the impact of the sexual misconduct by Nassar and Strampel on students, faculty and other staff
  • Provide a process for those victims of Nassar who have not otherwise had an opportunity to seek remedy to come forward and seek remedies
  • Review the actions of current and former MSU employees who had notice but who failed to take appropriate action in response to reports of sexual misconduct by Nassar or Strampel, and consider appropriate sanctions against those employees;
  • Address the campus climate around issues of sexual harassment and sexual violence, strengthen staff training, and assess the need for additional student services; and
  • Exercise adequate Title IX oversight of the university's youth programs by notifying Youth Program participants of its Title IX grievance procedure and that the procedures apply to Youth Programs.

This is the second time in less than five years that the federal government has found major violations of Title IX at Michigan State. In 2015, before allegations against Nassar came to light, the education department's Office of Civil Rights said MSU did not act promptly to handle two reports of sexual assault. It also found the university did not have proper procedures and policies in place to handle sexual assault reports. They found that created a sexually hostile environment on campus.

Over and over in the 54-page finding, the Office of Civil Rights said MSU knew about issues with Nassar and Strampel and just brushed them aside. The outcome of that burying of problems was to create an environment where female students knew they would not be believed, the report says.

For example, in the section in Strampel, the report says:  "The university's inaction in response to so many complaints ... over so many years very likely perpetuated the belief expressed by many that they had no choice but to tolerate the Dean's behavior because the University would not take any effective measures reasonably calculated to end it."

MSU has settled lawsuits by more than 300 Nassar survivors with a payment of $500 million. However, there are lawsuits still pending by more than 100 Nassar survivors. 

 

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