The U.S. Department of Education announced Thursday it was fining Michigan State University $4.5 million over its mishandling of the sexual abuse allegations against disgraced team doctor Larry Nassar.
The fine is part of a settlement agreement between the federal government and MSU under the Clery Act.
The $4.5 million is a “record” under the Clery Act, which requires colleges to collect data on incidents of on-campus crime and “report that data to employees and students annually,” according to an Education Department news release.
In 2016, Penn State University was hit with a $2.6 million fine for mishandling the sexual abuse allegations against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, Fox News reported.
Nassar, meanwhile, has been accused of sexually abusing more than 150 women and girls during his time at MSU and as a team doctor for the U.S. women’s national gymnastics team.
As Politico noted, he’s currently serving a prison sentence of between 40 and 175 years.
Making matters worse, university officials allegedly turned a blind eye to Nassar’s abuse for years.
Dr. William Strampel, the former dean of MSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine and Nassar’s one-time boss, has been found guilty of neglect of duty for “failing to properly supervise Nassar and for Strampel’s own sexual harassment of students,” MLive.com reported.
Two other ex-MSU employees — former university president Lou Anna K. Simon and former gymnastics coach Kathie Klages — have been accused of lying to authorities regarding their knowledge of Nassar’s actions.
Both women are facing criminal charges.
“Too many people in power knew about the behaviors and the complaints and yet the predators continued on the payroll and abused even more students,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told reporters during a conference call Thursday, according to The Detroit News.
“The university repeatedly failed to take appropriate and prompt action to protect its students,” she added.
MSU’s settlement with the Education Department means it cannot appeal the fine and will have to pay it in full.
“What happened at Michigan State University was abhorrent,” DeVos said, according to The New York Times.
“The crimes for which Larry Nassar and William Strampel have been convicted are disgusting and unimaginable. So too was the university’s response to their crimes,” she added.
“Too many people in power knew about the behaviors and the complaints, and yet the predators continued on the payroll and abused even more students,” DeVos said.
As part of the settlement, MSU has agreed to implement several new policies as well as pay the fine.
Among those new policies, the school must “create a system of protective measures and expanded reporting to better ensure the safety of its student-athletes in both intercollegiate and recreational athletic programs,” according to the Education Department’s news release.
MSU must also hire a Clery “compliance officer” and establish a Clery “compliance committee,” as well as address its many Title IX violations.
During her conference call with reporters, DeVos also had words of praise for the survivors of Nassar’s abuse.
“I continue to be heartened by the courage and resilience of the survivors,” DeVos said, according to The News.
“Their personal testimonies moved me deeply. My heart goes out to these brave women as they continue to heal from the horrific experiences,” she said.
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