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Lawmakers to MSU: You failed to stop Nassar, still won’t admit it

Michigan State University sign
Michigan State University

A state House inquiry released Thursday found Michigan State University failed to properly investigate or protect students from Larry Nassar, the former sports doctor recently convicted of sexually assaulting patients under the guise of treatment. A letter detailing the findings of the inquiry says at least 243 survivors have now reported Nassar to MSU Police. 

Nassar was repeatedly able to exploit loopholes in MSU’s policies, lawmakers say, and the school botched a 2014 investigation into a complaint against him. At the time, graduate student Amanda Thomashow reported Nassar groped her breast and massaged her vaginal area without consent during an exam.

In determining whether Nassar’s actions were legitimate medical treatment, the ensueing Title IX investigation only interviewed medical experts who worked at MSU and had close ties to Nassar. MSU cleared Nassar to return to work in 2014, where he went on to molest dozens of women and girls until his firing in 2016.

“We feel compelled to note MSU appears to defiantly and wrongfully maintain it did not mishandle this investigation,” the lawmakers’ letter adds in a footnote. “For example, MSU defends the conclusion of the 2014 report finding Nassar’s abuse of Ms. Thomashow was medically appropriate on the basis that the facts of her case were materially different from those of a later investigation which reached the opposite conclusion.”

Republican Representative Klint Kesto, one of the leads of the House inquiry, says they now plan to focus on writing legislation to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again. “Ultimately, we’re trying to do the best that we can with the information that we have,” Kesto says. “We just don’t want this to ever happen again. I think everybody wants that. And I think a lot of the House bills that will be coming up will be prevention from this ever happening anyway.”

Lawmakers came up with about three dozen recommendations, including requiring an outside investigation when there are multiple Title IX complaints against a university employee, and creating a third-party to ensure schools are following Title IX protocol.   

Multiple bills have already been introduced in response to the Nassar case. Those include increasing how long a person has to report a sexual assault and changing who is required to report suspicions of abuse. 

Spokespeople for MSU could not immediately be reached for comment. You can find a link to the full letter here. 

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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