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Michigan State Fined $4.5M Over Nassar Inaction

Paul Steinbach

Michigan State University will pay a record $4.5 million fine for its poor handling of the Larry Nassar case, the federal education department announced Thursday.

Nassar was a doctor at MSU, as well as being the team doctor for USA Gymnastics. He was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison on child pornography charges. He also faces a 40- to 175-year sentence issued in Ingham County and a 40- to 125-year sentence from Eaton County for sexual assaults. Those sentences will not begin until he finishes the federal sentence.

Nassar's supervisor at the time, MSU's College of Osteopathic Medicine dean William Strampel, was sentenced to a year in jail in June, after jurors found he used his power as dean to proposition and control female medical students. The jury also determined there was enough evidence to support prosecutors' argument that Strampel displayed "complete indifference" about whether Nassar was following protocols meant to decrease risk for the university following a complaint of sexual assault in 2014.

"What happened at MSU was abhorrent," U.S. Dept. of Education secretary Betsy DeVos said in announcing the findings put forth by the Office for Civil Rights. "So was the university's response to their crimes."

In immediate fallout from the report, MSU provost June Youatt resigned from the university. Youatt, the No. 2 person at the university responsible for the academic side of the institution, was specifically called out in the report for failing to take action in the Strampel case.

As reported by the Detroit Free Press, this is the second time in less than five years that the federal government has found major violations of Title IX at MSU. In 2015, before Nassar was publicly known, the Office of Civil Rights said MSU did not act promptly to handle two reports of sexual assault. The office also found the university did not have proper procedures and policies in place to handle sexual assault reports, which created a sexually hostile environment on campus.

The report says the school must hire an outside law firm to review all sex assault case decisions made by the school's Title IX office and issue a report to the federal government. MSU's board and president must also receive a regular report of all cases and decisions.

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

That includes former MSU President Lou Anna Simon, who is currently facing criminal charges of lying to police in the Nassar investigation; Provost Youatt, who knew for years of sexual harassment claims by Strampel and cleared him; along with the associate vice president for academic human resources, employees of the Office of the General Counsel, and the former head coach of the women's gymnastics team.

"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 OCR's 54-page report states.

“I’m grateful for the thoroughness of these investigations and intend to use them as a blueprint for action,” MSU President Samuel Stanley said in a statement. “Included is a review of current and former employees who had received notice or complaints of sex discrimination and failed to take appropriate steps. We will conduct this review, and once completed, if further personnel actions are needed, we are prepared to take them.

“The agreements with U.S. Department of Education further remind us that we failed survivors and our community. Following very thorough reviews, these agreements raise several concerns with university processes and policies. While we have made some improvements, it’s by no means sufficient or the end of the road. I know the magnitude of our responsibility and am determined MSU will act thoughtfully with our focus on survivors and the safety of our community.”

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