The Education Department announced that Michigan State University (MSU) is being fined a record $4.5 million and is being required to make sweeping changes to its Title IX procedures for failing to respond effectively to sexual assault complaints against Larry Nassar, a former sports doctor at the school who also worked at USA Gymnastics.
The financial penalty and required corrective action come after two separate investigations, one by the office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) and the other by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR).
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said that too many people knew about the sexual abuse but did nothing to stop it.
“What transpired at Michigan State was abhorrent, inexcusable, and a total and complete failure to follow the law and protect students,” said Secretary DeVos. “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 February 2018, Secretary DeVos directed the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to conduct a complete and total investigation into MSU’s handling of sexual abuse reports. Concurrently the Federal Student Aid office continued its investigation into the university’s compliance with the Clery Act.
According to the FSA website, The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act) is a federal statute requiring colleges and universities participating in federal financial aid programs to maintain and disclose campus crime statistics and security information.
The U.S. Education Department found that MSU improperly classified and reported the abuse. They failed to issue warnings as required by federal law; failed to notify campus security, and had an inadequate system for collecting crime data—as well as being guilty of overall administrative negligence.
As a result of these findings, MSU was supposed to employ an independent Clery Compliance officer, establish a Clery Compliance committee, and create a system of “protective measures” for students and minor children.
“OCR conducted a separate Title IX directed investigation into MSU’s handling of abuse reports,” the result of which was MSU signing a resolution agreement to address the Title IX violations.
Among the several provisions in the resolution, it requires that the University Make substantial changes to the University’s Title IX procedures, assess the impact of abuse on university, take action against anyone at the university who knew about abuse, strengthen sexual assault services, provide a place for victims to seek “remedies”, and “exercise adequate Title IX oversight of the University’s youth programs”.
Secretary DeVos added, “I want to thank each of the survivors who came forward and shared their stories. Doing so took an incredible amount of courage. Never again should incidents of sexual misconduct on campuses—or anywhere—be swept under the rug. Students, faculty, and staff must all feel empowered to come forward, know that they will be taken seriously, and know that the Department of Education will hold schools accountable.
“I also want to thank our FSA and OCR investigators who have worked tirelessly to bring justice for students. They followed the facts and ensured today’s resolution would drive meaningful change.”
In 2018 Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing dozens of girls and young women under the pretense of providing medical treatment. He also received a separate sentence of up to 125 years for the abuse and another 60-year federal prison term for child pornography.
William Strampel, former dean of Michigan State’s College of Osteopathic Medicine was also found guilty of criminal conduct in office and neglect of duty and was given a one-year jail sentence.