We have followed the legal fallout of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal for the past few months. In addition to the life imprisonment Nassar is currently serving for his crimes, others who played a role in allowing the abuse to occur for such a long period of time are facing consequences. The former Dean of Michigan State University (MSU) College of Osteopathic Medicine, William Strampel, was ordered to serve jail time for his role in failing to supervise Nassar, even after complaints were filed against Nassar. Other former MSU staff have been charged by the Michigan Attorney General. In addition to the criminal investigations conducted by the state, multiple federal agencies have conducted investigations into MSU in an attempt to learn what role the policies and practices played in allowing the abuse to flourish.
Last month, following an investigation by the Department of Health and Human Services, MSU was required to put procedures in place to “chaperone” certain medical examinations, provide privacy for patients when changing, and to designate an official to coordinate the acceptance, investigation, and resolution of complaints.
Last week, The U.S. Department of Education has announced the imposition of a record $4.5 million fine on Michigan State University for what it called a failure to protect students from sexual abuse and ordered the university to make changes. The announcement follows additional federal investigations, one by the federal Office of Civil Rights and one by the office of Federal Student Aid. These investigations found that despite having received reports of sexual violence, the university failed to properly disclose the incidents, notify campus security authorities, or issue timely warnings. The school was also found to have violated the terms of Title IX, a federal statute that bans sex discrimination in education programs receiving federal funding.
In addition to the fine, MSU must establish a new office dedicated to complying with federal regulations and also “create a system of protective measures and expanded reporting to better ensure the safety” of students and minor children who visit the campus.
The fine is part of the school’s settlement with the Department of Education, which also stipulates that “nothing in this Agreement constitutes an admission of liability or wrongdoing by MSU.” These investigations were ordered by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Following the announcement of the fine, DeVos told reporters: “What happened at Michigan State University was abhorrent. The crimes for which Larry Nassar and William Strampel have been convicted are disgusting and unimaginable. So, too, was the university’s response to their crimes. This must not happen again — there or anywhere else”