On Thursday, Michigan State University was fined $4.5 million by the US Department of Education for failing to protect students from sexual harassment and abuse. It’s the largest fine ever issued by the Department for not complying with a federal law that requires clear and prompt reporting of crimes that endanger students. WKAR’s Abigail Censky and Mary Ellen Pitney talked about the report's findings on Friday's Morning Edition.
What were the report’s major findings?
- The report found that the highest levels of university leaders failed to protect students from sexual harassment and assault specifically in the cases of now convicted former MSU Dean William Strampel and Former MSU sports medicine doctor Larry Nassar.
- Those highest level of leaders include former President Lou Anna Simon and the university’s top academic officer Provost June Youatt, who resigned yesterday. A judge will decide in the coming weeks whether Simon will stand trial. Simon is accused of lying to the Michigan State Police in May 2018 about when she knew about a sexual assault claim against Nassar.
- The report found that MSU failed to comply with the Clery Act and the school’s Title IX system failed at many levels. Plus, a whole network of employees who were involved in the President and provosts’ inaction.
- It will also require the university to hire an independent clery act compliance officer and make systemic changes to their Title IX policy.
- University spokeswoman Emily Gerkin-Guerrant told Censky that MSU’s new President Samuel Stanley Jr. plans to use this report as a blueprint for future actions.
On Thursday MSU Provost June Youatt resigned. How did the university respond to that?
The report is very damning toward Youatt and basically blames her and Simon for being the top officials who enabled Strampel to continue serving as Dean of the school of Osteopathic Medicine despite investigations into inappropriate behavior that began in 2004.
MSU was fined 4.5 million dollars. How has the community reacted?
Liz Abdnour is an attorney and former employee of the Office of Institutional Equity, that's an office on campus aimed at preventing sex-based discrimination, harassment and assualt. She said wasn’t surprised. And, she’s tentatively hopeful.
Abdnour also said this is different than previous investigations. MSU has been being investigated by the Department of Ed’s Office of Civil Rights since 2015, and technically they’re able to threaten to entirely cut off federal funding, but schools understand it’s a pretty empty threat.
Abdnour said that because this investigation found the school violated the Clery Act, there’s an historic fine and it’s different.
The group Reclaim MSU called Youatt’s resignation overdue and insufficient. They’re calling for the MSU Board of Trustees to resign. So, there’s still a lot of frustration and mistrust. And how much changes at the university with this report and fine remains to be seen.