The manner in which Michigan State has responded to and is handling the aftermath of the problems stemming from the monstrous crimes of Larry Nassar is the focus of Nancy Armour’s criticisms.
Ever since the tragic and horrific crimes that Larry Nassar perpetrated on Michigan State’s campus for twenty years came to light, it’s been the position of SpartansWire that Michigan State’s leadership – specific people who have long held the torch that represents the university’s ideals, morals, and integrity – must hold itself accountable, must communicate effectively with the Spartan community as it addresses all issues related to the institution’s most challenging and important crisis in its history, and must learn from the failings that have put the university in the very position it finds itself right now.
It has also been the position of SpartansWire that very little has been done to instill confidence in the Spartan community that the university leadership is doing any of those things.
We’ve caught a lot of heat here for standing firm in the belief that Michigan State’s leaders MUST show the most basic of leadership principles by merely acknowledging the epic failures of leadership and, at the very least, standing before the Michigan State family and addressing the ways in which sexual assault allegations have been handled by the various athletic programs and the university, as a whole.
Today, Nancy Armour of USA Today writes a piece that is tough for any Spartan to counter, let alone dismiss.
The language – specifically the use of the word “cesspool” – might be a bit too strong for me.
However, as I’ve said from the start of this horribly sad and undeniably damaging crisis, in allowing what Larry Nassar did to occur right under the nose of the university for twenty years, the university’s leaders have only themselves to blame for harsh treatment from people in the media, former and current student athletes, alumni around the world, and people with even minimal understanding of the horrific crimes that went on at Michigan State.
Read Armour’s column here and make up your own mind about whether her tone is appropriate or not…
Michigan State is a cesspool of abuse and indifference appears bottomless
Michigan State is a cesspool with seemingly no bottom.
Over the past two years, its gymnastics, basketball and football programs have all been found to have put women in harm’s way with little consequence. Now you can add volleyball to the list, after The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Michigan State had maintained ties with a prominent youth volleyball coach for two decades after he was banned by USA Volleyball for sexually abusing teenage girls.
Taken as a whole, administrators have turned a blind eye or, worse, enabled and protected abusers, leaving their victims vulnerable and ensuring that more names would be added to the list.
And even after Michigan State’s misdeeds were revealed, those who promised to clean up the culture so nothing like this would ever happen again have shown that what they’re really interested in is damage control.
But there is no way to spin what’s occurred at Michigan State. The only way to move forward is to fix it, and it’s not clear the school has the stomach for that.
“It’s not appropriate at all. There’s a huge disconnect between the administration and everyone else here,” said Natalie Rogers, one of the organizers of Reclaim MSU, a group of students, faculty, staff and alumni calling for a larger voice in university governance and a more proactive response to sexual violence on campus.
“We’ve been screaming from the top of our lungs what we’d like to see happen,” Rogers added, “and the university administration just does the opposite.”
USA Gymnastics has been the focus of most of the rage over Larry Nassar’s monstrous assaults, and understandably so. Among the more than 250 women who have said they were abused were the sport’s biggest stars, Olympic gold medalists McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, Jordyn Wieber, Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles. The atmosphere fostered by former national team coordinator Martha Karolyi was one of fear and intimidation, several gymnasts have said, a perfect scenario for a predator like Nassar.
But Michigan State’s culpability is, in many ways, worse.
Former Michigan State gymnastics coach Kathie Klages was alerted to Nassar’s abusive treatment as far back as 1997, and not only did she not report it, numerous gymnasts said she told them to keep silent. A track and cross country athlete expressed concerns in 1999. A softball player did so that year and the next. Nothing ever came of their complaints.
When Michigan State finally did investigate Nassar for sexual assault, the 2014 Title IX findings were edited so the woman who reported him wouldn’t know the school had found Nassar’s “treatments” could lead to lawsuits and expose his patients to “unnecessary trauma based on the possibility of perceived inappropriate sexual misconduct.”
Michigan State did agree to establish treatment protocols for Nassar. But they were never followed, and the person who was supposed to ensure they were enforced later said he’d never had any intention of doing so.
That person, William Strampel, former dean of Michigan State’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, has since been charged with willful neglect of duty. Strampel also faces charges stemming from allegations of sexual harassment by four women.
That isn’t it, however.
The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights found Michigan State was in violation of Title IX from 2009 to 2014, ruling that the school’s “failure to address complaints of sexual harassment and sexual violence in a prompt and equitable manner caused and may have contributed to a continuation of a sexually hostile environment.”
A federal lawsuit filed earlier this month alleges that a female student was raped by three Michigan State basketball players in 2015 and the university coerced her not to report it. ESPN reported in January that at least 16 football players have been accused of sexual assault or violence against women since coach Mark Dantonio arrived in 2007.
Michigan State’s response to all of this? When former president Lou Anna K. Simon was forced to resign in January, she blamed outside pressure, saying, “As tragedies are politicized, blame is inevitable. As president, it is only natural that I am the focus of this anger.”
Former Gov. John Engler, the current president, has been accused of bullying one of Nassar’s victims. His special counsel had to apologize last week after telling board members the woman had “outrageously distorted” details of the meeting with Engler, and was trying to “set up” the university so it would have to pay more to settle civil lawsuits.
Quite the tone they’re setting.
“It’s just horrible, and not the direction we need to be moving in, not just as an institution but as a society,” said Rogers of Reclaim MSU.
Owning up to your mistakes is never easy, and it is exponentially harder when the failings are as egregious as Michigan State’s. But not accepting the depth of its problems, or trying to make them go away as quickly and as quietly as possible, is what got the university in this trouble in the first place.
Penn State is often held up as the model of what not to do when faced with a sex abuse scandal. But what Michigan State has done, what it continues to do, is far worse.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.