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MSU community asks trustees to reveal stance on releasing Nassar documents

Posted at 5:25 PM, Apr 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-16 17:28:14-04

MSU CAMPUS — In the their first meeting since again refusing to turn over 6,000 documents related to the Larry Nassar case to the state attorney general's office, the MSU Board of Trustees was called to answer for that decision.

The board's refusal to turn over the documents, which concern the university's handling of the accusations against Nassar, effectively ended the attorney general's investigation.

Several of the public participants on Friday's meeting called on the board to make their stance on releasing the documents known publicly.

"If you don't release these documents, as far as my peers and I are concerned, you have allied yourself with him," said Sydney Connors, a student at MSU's James Madison College. "With that I would like to join many others in demanding that you release those documents to the attorney general and that all of you publicly and individually restate your position on this matter."

Tammy Borque is an advocate for survivors of Nassar's crimes, survivors like her own daughter who have been disheartened by the board's decision. Borque addressed several of the speakers before her.

"Yes, Sydney, Mary, Erica, Danielle and Lexi. You should be afraid," Borque said. "Silence will signify that you voted to withhold. Silence will tell history what side you're on. On behalf of the sisters and parents of sisters who were assaulted on the MSU campus, we are calling for a public announcement of your vote. The impact of your decision is crushing."

Vice-chair Dan Kelly, one of the trustees who requested the investigation in 2018, said that although he is "upset" survivors are hurt by the decision he believes as a lawyer and trustee that it was the correct choice.

"I don't view this as just a release of documents as if they contain secrets or stuff that would make the board and university look bad. They've already been determined by an independent judge to be privileged materials and not involving factual materials," Kelly said.

Despite wishing he and the board could do something differently, Kelly doubled down on his decision to keep the documents protected.

"I hope that we can respectfully disagree and move forward," Kelly said.

While addressing the media after the meeting, Board Chair Dianne Byrum said the decision was made under the guidance of legal counsel and was not subject to a vote from the board.

"The legal right for maintaining the privilege on these documents is something that the board has taken very seriously, it does not take a vote to keep a legal right," Byrum said.

A few of the trustees volunteered their stance at the end of the meeting. In an tearful statement from Trustee Kelly Tebay, she assured survivors she is always fighting for them.

"We are one of eight and my positions haven't changed. And so I want you to know that I am on your side, but...I'm not a dictator and I don't make decisions on my own. And they're certainly not easy things for me to experience," Tebay said.

Trustee Renee Knake Jefferson reviewed the documents individually and recommended an independent investigation back in December 2020. She also shared her position on the release of the documents saying that she also can't act alone.

"I agree with the survivors that my review of the documents may not be what some maybe all feel that they need in their individual healing. And I agree with the attorney general that my review is not a replacement for her office's work," Jefferson said.

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