It can be hard to keep track of how many different pieces of news broke today, all of them illuminating one larger point—Michigan State really didn’t want to try too hard, if at all, to prevent or investigate sexual assault or gender violence on its campus, and they were especially reluctant to do so if that case involved athletics. Michigan State went about doing this in various ways. It tried to get out of its reporting duties under Title IX, but it also created a separate way for handling complaints about athletes. And when the institution did hand out punishments, they weren’t much.
Amid all those horrible details and all the broader malpractice, one strangeness stands out. It’s a meeting that former Michigan State president Lou Anna Simon had with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, and where that meeting fell relative to when DeVos’ federal agency rolled back rules mandating that universities had to investigate (as well as try to prevent) sexual assault and gender violence.
- Sept. 20, 2017: Lou Anna Simon meets with Betsy DeVos. You can even see a picture here of them chatting.
- Sept. 22, 2017: Obama-era Title IX guidance is withdrawn
- Oct. 10, 2017: Michigan State asks to have federal monitoring ended
Now, it’s worth pointing out that those rollbacks didn’t stop the federal government from looking into just what the hell was going on at Michigan State. It also didn’t stop the government from rejecting that Oct. 10 request. While we’re doing caveats, it makes sense that DeVos would be talking to college presidents, including Simon, right before making a big decision on Title IX.
But it is worth remembering, as Simon continues to express shock at her institution’s repeated failure to stop convicted serial abuser Larry Nassar, that she had no problem openly aligning herself with a woman who has some pretty crazy ideas about education, and always said she would gut Title IX. It’s notable, but it might not be surprising. Simon, after all, let the DeVos family donate more than $10 million for a university research building at Michigan State. You are, as the saying goes, the company you keep.