Michigan State University agreed to pay a record $4.5 million (£3.7 million) federal fine and remove its provost in the latest fallout from the sexual abuse scandal centring on its athletics team doctor Larry Nassar.
MSU already last year had removed its president and accepted a $500 million settlement with more than 300 victims of Nassar. Its latest moves followed the US Education Department’s completion of its investigation into MSU’s violation of laws banning sex discrimination and sexual violence on college campuses.
The department, in assessing a record fine for such violations, found MSU guilty of a series of failures to disclose Nassar’s behaviour to governmental authorities and the wider public.
Nassar, who held the rank of associate professor at MSU and served as doctor for the US women’s gymnastics team, was arrested in December 2016 and is serving a prison term of 40 to 175 years for multiple sex offences under the guise of medical treatment.
MSU’s provost, June Youatt, resigned after the Education Department findings identified her as repeatedly ignoring sexually inappropriate comments by Nassar’s supervisor, William Strampel, then dean of MSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Strampel was earlier convicted of felony misconduct in office and wilful neglect of duty, and sentenced to a year in jail, for failing to limit Nassar’s work with patients after a 2014 sexual assault complaint.
MSU’s president at the time of the assaults, Lou Anna Simon, is also facing state and federal charges.
“What transpired at Michigan State was abhorrent, inexcusable, and a total and complete failure to follow the law and protect students,” education secretary Betsy DeVos said.
But a lawyer representing numerous Nassar victims, John Manly, called the $4.5 million figure pitifully small compared to federal fines in the corporate world, issuing a statement calling it “completely inadequate and an insult to survivors”.
More than 100 women are still pursuing legal claims against MSU.
As part of the settlement, the Education Department is requiring MSU to overhaul the office that handles reports of sexual violence on campus, accept regular ongoing monitoring by the department and immediately report to federal authorities any punitive actions it takes in such cases.
Other steps required of MSU include providing a process for any other victims of Nassar to seek remedies, and expanding its investigation of other MSU employees who may have played a role in facilitating his abuse.
MSU’s current president, Samuel Stanley, pledged in a statement to create an oversight committee to ensure compliance with the requirements.
The agreements with the Education Department “further remind us that we failed survivors and our community”, Dr Stanley said. “While we have made some improvements, it’s by no means sufficient or the end of the road.”
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