MSU fined record $4.5 million in Larry Nassar scandal; provost resigns in aftermath

Cassandra Negley
FILE - In this March 26, 2019 file photo, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos speaks during a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.   The Education Department is fining Michigan State University $4.5 million for failing to respond to sexual assault complaints against Dr. Larry Nassar.  The announcement was made Thursday by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced a $4.5 million fine for Michigan State University's handling of Larry Nassar's sexual abuse allegations. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Michigan State University will pay a record $4.5 million fine for its handling of sexual assault allegations against Larry Nassar case, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced Thursday.

The school will also have to overhaul its Title IX compliance procedures and hand it to an outside firm for three years for monitoring. Critics, including a lawyer for survivors of Nassar’s abuse, are slamming the fine for being too low.

MSU provost June Youatt, the second in charge on the academic side, resigned shortly after the announcement, per David Jesse at the Detroit Free Press.

Federal gov’t fines MSU for Nassar case

The announcement completes two separate investigations by the U.S. Department of Education, whose Federation Student Aid office oversaw the Clery Act investigation. The law requires colleges to post crime statistics and communicate danger in a timely fashion to the students and campus.

DeVos told The Detroit News the fine came after the department’s finding of MSU’s “complete failure to protect students” from sexual abuse. Nassar is serving an effective life sentence for sexually assaulting more than 150 women and girls over decades. William Strampel, the former MSU dean who oversaw Nassar, was recently convicted of criminal charges.

"What happened at MSU was abhorrent. .... so was the university's response to their crimes," U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in announcing the punishment.

Per the Detroit News, the fine is the largest in the history of the Clery Act. The department issued a $2.4 million fine to Penn State following the 2011 child sexual abuse scandal. Before that it was a $350,000 fine in 2008 to Eastern Michigan University for failing to disclose a murder that occurred on campus.

It’s the second punishment for MSU by the federal government in less than five years. The Office of Civil Rights found major violations in 2015.

MSU filed more than 1,000 pages of paperwork, including a 100-page court filing and nearly 900 pages of exhibits, last month saying it shouldn’t be held legally responsible for Nassar, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Provost named in report resigns

Youatt resigned after the fine was announced by the Department of Education, per the Detroit Free Press. She was named in the report for failing to take action after knowing for years of sexual harassment claims against Strampel and clearing him anyway.

MSU President Samuel Stanley confirmed the resignation in a statement to reporters.

"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. In my effort to build a safe and caring campus, we must have a culture of accountability.”

Former MSU President Lou Anna Simon is facing criminal charges of lying to police during the Nassar investigation. She stepped down the day Nassar was sentenced on sexual assault charges and retained professorship until she retired last month.

MSU is required to investigate who knew what and when and who didn’t act in the cases. That includes various members of the university and gymnastics team.

Lawyer for Nassar survivors calls fine ‘a gift’

John Manly is a lawyer for some of Nassar’s survivors, including Rachael Denholander, whose account to the IndyStar in 2016 first broke the scandal.

Manly took issue with the fine and said on Twitter it makes clear the Department of Education is sending a message to colleges that “If you knowingly allow doctors to rape their patients for years you will suffer almost no negative consequence.” He also called it “a gift” to the university as it should have been a higher fine.

Manly compared it to the $170 million fine levied against YouTube by the federal government this week for invading children’s privacy and using personal data for advertisements.

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