Michigan State has agreed to pay a $4.5 million fine for its failure to protect students from Larry Nassar, a former school employee and former doctor to the USA Gymnastics national team, who is now serving more than 100 years in prison for sexually abusing young girls under the guise of medical treatment. The fine, part of a settlement with the U.S. Department of Education, was announced today and is for violations of the Clery Act, a federal law which requires all colleges getting federal dollars to keep and report information about campus crime. The education department called the settlement the “largest-ever Clery fine.”
The government investigations of Michigan State centered on violations of two different federal laws: Title IX, which bars gender-based discrimination, and the Clery Act. The Office of Civil Rights conducted the Title IX investigation, while the office of Federal Student Aid investigated the Clery violations. Detailed reports outlining the findings of both investigations have been released, as were documents saying what Michigan State agreed to alter to make students safer.
The settlement agreement with FSA included 14 changes, some of which were related to Nassar. They included:
- Issue a “clear written explanation” to everyone who receives treatment at MSU “about any sensitive medical procedures and document their informed consent to authorize such procedures and their right to immediately terminate treatment at any time.”
- Give all patients the option to have a chaperone in the room for any procedure “that require the patient to disrobe or that involve any contact with or manipulation of the patient’s body.”
- Provide information to patients and parents of non-student minors about reporting options and “a statement that encourages the prompt reporting of any alleged misconduct or other serious concern about safety to designated authorities.”
- Employ a Clery Act compliance professional, who will answer to a vice president or its equivalent.
- Mandatory training for all campus security authorities that includes “training on understanding the trauma typically experienced by victims of sexual violence.”
- A “complete reassessment” of Michigan State’s procedures and protocols regarding campus safety, crime prevention, fire safety, and substance abuse prevention to ensure compliance with federal guidelines.
The resolution reached with the OCR also included a list of changes that Michigan State has to make. They included:
- Provide a period of time for anyone who was harassed or sexually assaulted by Nassar to tell Michigan State and seek remedies, such as counseling or the opportunity to retake a class.
- “Review the actions of current and former employees who had notice or were reported to have received notice or complaints” regarding Nassar and former dean William Strampel, who was Nassar’s boss and earlier this year was sentenced to a year in jail for neglect of duty and misconduct in office. Michigan State is then directed to “determine what further responsive steps, if any, must be taken with regard to that person.”
- Require people working in the Title IX office “who previously provided legal representation to the university on any matter involving Title IX” to recuse themselves in certain situations.
- Extend the conflict of interest policy regarding Title IX investigations to all scientific experts.
- Have an outside consultant, who hasn’t worked for Michigan State before, review the university’s Title IX grievance process for three academic years.
- Have the existence of all final Title IX reports and determinations placed in personnel files. What should go in there is described as “a summary of the nature of the allegations in sufficient detail for a reasonable reviewer to identify potential patterns of behavior, indicate whether a finding of violation was made and, if so, the sanctions imposed.”
The full FSA letter, FSA settlement, OCR letter, and OCR resolution agreement are below.