This MSU Nassar Update Means The School Is Off The Hook For How It Handled His Abuse
In the past year, Michigan State University has been embroiled in multiple sexual assault scandals. In addition to a civil lawsuit over the university's handling of reported abuse by former gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, MSU also faced criticism after many of its football and basketball players were accused of sexual misconduct. However, the NCAA cleared MSU of wrongdoing in the Nassar case, as well as in the cases involving its sports teams, according to an official announcement from the university on Thursday.
Bustle has reached out to the NCAA for comment. In an email on Thursday, MSU directed Bustle to its statement announcing the NCAA's decision. In the statement, Michigan State Athletic Director Bill Beekman said that "MSU cooperated fully with the inquiry over the past several months and provided all requested documentation and access to key personnel."
Beekman added that while MSU agrees with the NCAA that the university "did not commit a violation, that does not diminish our commitment to ensure the health, safety and wellness of our student athletes."
MSU said that its athletics department received a letter on Wednesday from Jonathan Duncan, the NCAA's vice president of enforcement, saying that no NCAA violations were found in how the university handled sexual assault allegations pertaining to Nassar or to its basketball and football players.
Earlier this year, an investigation by The Detroit News found that 14 MSU officials were aware of sexual misconduct allegations against Nassar in the two decades prior to his arrest, and that at least eight women had filed reports about him. However, after conducting an investigation into the university's handling of the Nassar case, the NCAA found that its review “has not substantiated violations of NCAA legislation.”
One of the 14 MSU officials who were reportedly aware of Nassar's behavior was Kathie Klages, a former MSU gymnastics coach. The Chicago Tribune reported that shortly before MSU's announcement, Klages was arraigned on Thursday on charges of lying to investigators. Officials said that two gymnasts complained to Klages back in 1997 about assaults by Nassar, and that Klages allegedly denied hearing those complaints. Klages retired in February, as more and more women began speaking out against Nassar.
In February, Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 125 years in prison after pleading guilty to three counts of criminal sexual conduct in Eaton County, Michigan. This was the third sentence Nassar received in three months, according to CNN, and he admitted in court that he had used his position as a trusted doctor to sexually abuse girls and young women who approached him for medical care.
Then, in May, MSU reached a $500 million settlement with the 332 women who filed lawsuits in the Nassar case. Survivors of Nassar's abuse, including Rachael Denhollander and Amanda Thomashow, told CNN that while they were glad MSU had reached a settlement deal, they still expected more accountability and a shift in culture down the line.
According to The Detroit News, the Nassar case has resulted in several major changes at MSU, including the resignation of university president Lou Anna Simon and the retirement of athletic director Mark Hollis. However, MSU has denied on multiple occasions that university officials covered up reports of sexual misconduct, per the Chicago Tribune, despite reports that survivors had come forward with complaints against Nassar or the school's athletes prior to the news becoming public.