Michigan State University will be fined a record $4.5 million over its handling of sexual abuse allegations against Larry Nassar, the sports doctor who treated Olympic gymnasts and was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison after more than 150 women and girls said he had sexually abused them.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Thursday the university is being fined for violations of the Clery Act, the federal law requiring colleges to report crimes on campus, for its handling of allegations against Nassar. The fine is the largest ever under the Clery Act.
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As part of a settlement agreement, the university waived its right to appeal the fine.
DeVos also said the university signed a resolution agreement to change its procedures under Title IX — the law banning sex discrimination in federally funded education programs — after a separate investigation by the Office for Civil Rights concluded the university’s current procedures are “broken and that they must be fixed immediately.”
Investigators found that MSU didn’t adequately respond to complaints about the crimes and subjected students to a “sexually hostile environment,” denying them access to and the ability to benefit from their education, DeVos said.
“Too many people in power knew about the behaviors and the complaints and yet the predators continued on the payroll and abused even more students,” she said in a conference call with reporters. “The university repeatedly failed to take appropriate and prompt action to protect its students.”
MSU’s new president, Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D., announced several actions Thursday in response to the investigations, including that he accepted Provost June Youatt’s resignation, effective immediately, Thursday morning. He also formed a new oversight committee charged with ensuring MSU is fully responsive to the steps outlined in agreements with the department and OCR’s letter of findings.
“OCR’s letter of findings is very clear that the provost and former president failed to take appropriate action on behalf of the university to address reports of inappropriate behavior and conduct, specifically related to former Dean William Strampel,” Stanley said in a statement. “In my effort to build a safe and caring campus, we must have a culture of accountability.”
Strampel, Nassar’s former supervisor, was sentenced last month to a year in jail for felony misconduct in office and willful neglect of duty.
Stanley said he would use the investigation as a “blueprint for action,” including a review of current and former employees who had received notice or complaints of sex discrimination but 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,” he said in the statement.
During her call with reporters, the Education secretary called events at the university “abhorrent” and said the crimes for which Nassar and Strampel were convicted are “disgusting and unimaginable.”
“So too was the university’s response to their crimes,” she said. DeVos said her “heart goes out to” the survivors as they continue to heal.
“As I said repeatedly since I took office, we will always hold institutions accountable to the full extent of the law,” she said. “Schools must do better by their students.”
Education Department officials had lambasted MSU in January over preliminary findings of a probe into the school’s failure to stop Nassar.
Their findings went way beyond the Nassar scandal, highlighting “several areas of serious noncompliance” with federal campus safety laws, including failing to warn students when school officials knew of potential threats on campus and low-balling campus crime statistics. The problems extended to other parts of MSU’s athletics programs and its Greek life organizations, according to that report.