Over the course of the past year, Larry Nassar — who was once the national team doctor for USA Gymnastics as well as a physician at Michigan State University — has received multiple prison sentences on charges of child pornography and sexual assault. And now, the people who survived his abuse will get some help moving forward, as MSU has agreed to pay $500 million in settlements to the survivors of Larry Nassar's abuse.
Roughly 300 of Nassar's accusers sued MSU over Nassar's sexual abuse. Olympic gold medal gymnast Jordyn Wieber was among the survivors who sued both MSU and USA Gymnastics, and she has harshly criticized MSU on multiple occasions for failing to adequately respond to Nassar's actions. According to USA Today, Wieber demanded back in March that MSU interim President John Engler work with the girls and women who Nassar abused.
ESPN reported that MSU came to an agreement on Tuesday afternoon with attorneys representing 332 claimants who had sued the school. The $500 million settlement is possibly the largest sexual misconduct settlement involving a university; Pennsylvania State University paid $109 million in settlements to at least 35 survivors of Jerry Sandusky's abuse.
However, the MSU settlement deal reportedly did not include any provisions about universities policies pertaining to sexual assault. Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual abuse back in 2016, consequently told ESPN that she was "very disappointed in a missed opportunity to create meaningful policy changes."
Jamie White, an attorney representing dozens of women who filed lawsuits against MSU, confirmed the settlement to the Detroit Free Press, and indicated that $425 million would be paid out right away. Another attorney also representing survivors, John Manly, told CNN that the remaining $75 would be held in a trust fund to protect "any future claimants alleging sexual abuse by Larry Nassar." Like Denhollander, White acknowledged that the settlement deal was not perfect, but said that it would hopefully help them to move forward.
“I don’t think they can ever be made whole, but this is a step in the right direction,” White told the Detroit Free Press.
Manly, however, told CNN in a statement that he hoped the deal would nonetheless have a significant systemic impact:
This historic settlement came about through the bravery of more than 300 women and girls who had the courage to stand up and refuse to be silenced. It is the sincere hope of all of the survivors that the legacy of this settlement will be far reaching institutional reform that will end the threat of sexual assault in sports, schools and throughout our society.
Long before MSU's Board of Trustees agreed to the settlement deal in principle, MSU attendees wondered how the university would pay if it did settle. During a legislative hearing earlier this year, Engler suggested that tuition costs would cover the millions of dollars the university now owes to survivors of Nassar's abuse. However, state senators have reportedly warned MSU against using tuition money or state aid to settle lawsuits. The school could instead sue its insurance company for the funds, like Penn State did, or borrow the money from elsewhere.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette lauded the settlement deal, saying that "this is about justice for the survivors." Special Counsel Bill Forsyth, meanwhile, described the settlement deal as a "resolution on the civil side" of Nassar's case, but made it clear that his criminal investigation was still ongoing.
According to CNN, this $500 million settlement deal only pertains to lawsuits filed against MSU. It does not address lawsuits against USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic Committee, or any other parties.