WASHINGTON — The Education Department is fining Michigan State University $4.5 million for failing to respond to sexual assault complaints against Dr. Larry Nassar.
That announcement comes from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who says the university's failure to act created a "sexually hostile environment."
DeVos says the school also has agreed to take corrective action to protect its students.
Nassar is a former sports doctor at Michigan State who also worked at USA Gymnastics. He's serving effective life sentences for possessing child pornography and molesting young athletes.
DeVos says the university did not adequately respond to complaints against Nassar and his supervisor, William Strampel. She says any school that fails to uphold its responsibility to students will be held accountable.
Michigan State responded by announcing several actions set in place by President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. M.D.
“I’m grateful for the thoroughness of these investigations and intend to use them as a blueprint for action,” Stanley said. “Included is a review of current and former employees who had received notice or complaints of sex discrimination and 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.
First, he accepted the resignation of Provost June Youatt, effective immediately.
Youatt was expected to make $480,000 this year. According to the MSU website, she was named Provost in April 2014.
Second, Stanley formed a new oversight committee to make sure the university acts on the required steps outlined in Dept. of Education's report and the 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.”
The oversight committee will report directly to Stanley and will be made up of the following individuals:
• Marilyn Tarrant, team chair and associate vice president for the Office of Audit Risk and Compliance
• Shannon Torres, assistant general counsel
• David Weismantel, university physician and director of the Student Health Center
• Rebecca Campbell, chair of the Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct Expert Advisory Workgroup, psychology professor and recently appointed special adviser to the president on RVSM issues
• Andrea Munford, lieutenant with the MSU Police Department’s Center for Trauma-Informed Investigative Excellence, also recently appointed as a special adviser to the president on RVSM issues
“The agreements with U.S. Department of Education further remind us that we failed survivors and our community. Following very thorough reviews, these agreements raise several concerns with university processes and policies. While we have made some improvements, it’s by no means sufficient or the end of the road. I know the magnitude of our responsibility and am determined MSU will act thoughtfully with our focus on survivors and the safety of our community.”
For those that want to follow along and keep MSU accountable, MSU has created a dashboard on the Our Commitment website that will provide frequent updates for the community on the university's progress.
“While MSU has made improvements and changes to how we handle our Title IX responsibilities in the past several years, we know there is more work to do,” said Dianne Byrum, chairperson of the MSU Board of Trustees. “The board understands the seriousness of these findings and the significance of the fine. We fully support President Stanley’s committment to be better on these critical issues; our community – and the many survivors who are part of it – deserve nothing less.”
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