Education Department Levies Largest-Ever Clery Fine Against MSU Over Mishandling of Nassar Scandal

Michigan State University will pay $4.5 million for its systemic failure to address sexual abuse.

Education Department Levies Largest-Ever Clery Fine Against MSU Over Mishandling of Nassar Scandal

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The U.S. Department of Education announced on Thursday it will fine Michigan State University (MSU) $4.5 million and require the school to make major changes to its Title IX procedures following its systemic failure to protect students from sexual abuse. The fine is the largest Clery Act fine ever imposed by the Department, dwarfing the $2.4 million fine levied against Penn State in 2016 over its mishandling of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal.

The Department’s 50+ page letter details numerous times MSU failed to respond to claims that the school’s former sports doctor, Larry Nassar, was committing sexual abuse. The letter also claims the university should have known about Nassar before accusations against him were made public in a 2016 Indianapolis Star article. It also says MSU failed to address concerns about its former dean, William Stampel.

“What transpired at Michigan State was abhorrent, inexcusable, and a total and complete failure to follow the law and protect students,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in a statement. “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.”

Last year, Nassar pleaded guilty to molesting women and girls under the guise of medical treatment and was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison. Nassar had already been sentenced to 60 years in prison on child pornography charges. In May 2018, MSU reached a settlement of $500 million with 332 women and girls who allege they were sexually assaulted by Nassar.

In June of this year, Strampel was found guilty of neglect of duty and misconduct in office for his oversight of Nassar. He was also accused of sexually harassing his medical students while he was the Dean of Osteopathic Medicine at MSU.

The fine 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).

The Department will require MSU to pay $4.5 million in fines 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

As a result of these findings, MSU must take corrective actions that include the following:

  • Employ an independent Clery Compliance Officer, who will report to a high-level executive;
  • Establish a new Clery Compliance Committee that includes representation from more than 20 offices that play a role in campus safety, crime prevention, fire safety, emergency management, and substance abuse prevention; and
  • Create a system of protective measures and expanded reporting to better ensure the safety of its student-athletes in both intercollegiate and recreational athletic programs. Similar steps will be taken to better ensure the safety of minor children who participate in camps or other youth programs that are sponsored by the University or that are held on its properties.

“Students are our focus, and we are committed to their safety on campus,” said FSA Chief Operating Officer Mark Brown. “Our findings and the required corrective actions should serve as a reminder to all schools that we take seriously our commitment to vigorously enforce the Clery Act and protect all students. Any school that falls short will be held accountable.”

OCR conducted a separate Title IX directed investigation into MSU’s handling of reports of sexual violence against Nassar. During its directed investigation, OCR reviewed hundreds of sexual assault reports, interviewed 47 witnesses including survivors, and reviewed tens of thousands of documents. OCR’s investigation revealed that MSU failed to adequately respond to reports of sexual misconduct by Nassar and Strampel, failed to take appropriate interim measures to protect its students while complaints against Nassar and Strampel were pending, and failed to take prompt and effective steps to end any harassment, eliminate the hostile environment, and prevent any further harassment from recurring.

As a result of the investigation, MSU signed a resolution agreement to address the Title IX violations, which, among several provisions, requires that the university do the following:

  • 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 within the college, the sports medicine clinic, and related facilities, programs and services;
  • Provide a process for those victims of. Nassar, who have not otherwise had an opportunity to seek remedy, to come forward and seek remedies to which they might be entitled;
  • Review the actions of current and former employees of the university 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 resolution should demonstrate, beyond any doubt, this administration’s commitment to the vigorous enforcement of civil rights,” said Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Kenneth L. Marcus. “There should be no question that we will hold colleges and universities accountable if they perpetuate sexual violence by failing to meet their obligations under Title IX.”

In response to the fine, which MSU has agreed to pay, the university’s new president, Samuel Stanley, announced that Provost June Youatt has resigned. Stanley also announced that he has formed an oversight committee, which will be charged with ensuring MSU’s future actions “are fully responsive to the steps outlined in the agreements with the department, as well as 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 my effort to build a safe and caring campus, we must have a culture of accountability.”

To access the Campus Crime Program Review Report, click here

To access the settlement agreement reached between MSU and the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid, click here

To view the Office for Civil Rights Letter of Finding, click here

To view the resolution agreement reached between MSU and the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, click here

 

About the Author

Robin Hattersley Gray
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Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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