Thanks to some hard-nosed student journalists, a recent sexual harassment case involving the Michigan State marching band director has come to light 10 months after the school attempted to address the matter internally.
Spartan Marching Band director John T. Madden was suspended last summer after an internal investigation revealed he had sexually harassed a female student, sending her numerous inappropriate text messages. The student reported the interactions to the school in February 2016, leading to an investigation and one-week suspension for Madden, who is in his 28th year as band director.
None of this was public knowledge until a Feb. 9 report from The State News, Michigan State’s student paper, which obtained text messages Madden sent to the former marching band member. Spanning from Nov. 10, 2015 to Feb. 27, 2016, the director attempted to initiate a number of dates, picture exchanges, and conversations with the student.
Per The State News, Madden texted the student the following:
“Pics of your dress are required … Discreetly of course”
“When the season ends ... We’re going ice skating! I’m an old hockey player!”
“Blingy dress!! A+ I’m a fan. Yes ... Will be a good year.”
“Just finished my conducting gig ... Having a couple beers at a local bar ... Sorry for being a creepy texter.”
Madden had the student call him Feb. 27, telling her his behavior was inappropriate and that he was “working through some things right now,” adding that he and his wife were having marital issues.
Two days later, the student reported his actions to the university. A senior investigator in the university’s Office of Institutional Equity filed a completed report in April 2016, which found that Madden violated the Relationship Violence & Sexual Misconduct Policy by way of using his position of power to impose his desires upon a student and laborer. As a result, Madden was suspended for a week without pay over the summer and had his promotion to full-time professor withheld for three months.
Michigan State spokesperson Jason Cody reportedly sent the following statement to university officials in October 2016, when he anticipated a story would break. He provided The State News the same statement months later in 2017 and sent it to us when contacted on Wednesday; unlike the recent football sexual assault investigation, no press releases were sent out when Madden was under investigation or briefly suspended last May:
“John Madden, director of the MSU Spartan Marching Band, was suspended without pay May 27, 2016, to June 3, 2016, among other personnel actions. The suspension came after an investigation by MSU’s Office of Institutional Equity into improper conduct the prior semester. While MSU does not discuss specific personnel actions or investigations, the Office of Institutional Equity’s investigation found Madden violated the Relationship Violence & Sexual Misconduct Policy. In addition to the personnel actions imposed, the university will continue its ongoing work with the Spartan Marching Band to ensure it provides a learning environment free from harassment.”
In a letter to the school, a lawyer representing the student maligned the school for its light punishment of Madden, claiming it merely instructed him to “take one unpaid week of vacation, wait 3 months and we will promote you as planned, and skip a Band party next year.” The letter also informed the school that the student would finish her degree online, as being on campus caused too much distress:
After much thought, reflecting upon the extreme discomfort she experienced whenever encountering Madden (or even on-campus reminders about Band), she will not return to the East Lansing campus.
Including Madden, Michigan State has now suspended at least four staff members in relation to some form of sexual assault or harassment during the past year. A recruiter for the Spartans football team, Curtis Blackwell, was suspended last week with pay, the same time that the school announced three football team members and one staff member were being investigated for sexual assault.
On Monday, it was made public that Michigan State gymnastics coach Kathie Klages was suspended from her post after being named in multiple lawsuit complaints. She resigned on Tuesday. The complaints alleged Klages dissuaded Spartan athletes from seeking charges against suspended team physician Larry Nassar, who is now the being sued by current and former members of USA Gymnastics and Michigan State female athletes for sexually assaulting them during routine exams.