MSU Reaches $500M Settlement With Nassar Victims

MSU Reaches $500M Settlement With Nassar Victims

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MSU Reaches $500M Settlement With Nassar Victims

Believed to be largest settlement ever in a sexual assault misconduct case involving a university – Michigan State is demonstrating accountability, is making progress, and is re-establishing credibility.

Contact @crowleysullivan

Nothing will ever make up for the fact that Michigan State University – the individual people who were in leadership positions, not a building or a statue or a stadium – allowed Larry Nassar to sexually assault Spartan student athletes on campus for twenty years.

At least fourteen members of the Michigan State administration were aware, to varying degrees, of the crimes Nassar was committing.

Coaches and trainers were aware of the complaints.

It’s fair to speculate that more than fourteen were at least vaguely aware of the fact that something was going on that needed to be addressed.

Meanwhile, the equally unthinkable crimes of Jerry Sandusky at Penn State were echoing all throughout the nation as Larry Nassar was perpetrating his crimes in East Lansing.

It’s unconscionable to think that Michigan State didn’t put a stop to Nassar’s sexual assaults.

But, today, as ESPN and countless other news outlets have reported, Michigan State University took yet another step forward in attempting to re-establish integrity and credibility by holding itself accountable with the announcement of a $500 million settlement it has reached with the victims of Nassar’s crimes.

It is believed to be the largest settlement ever reached in a sexual misconduct case involving a university.

Michigan State doesn’t deserve any pats on the back for executing what is merely an initial step towards what will be a never-ending need to demonstrate an acknowledgment of epic failures of leadership over twenty years.

However, John Engler, the proud Michigan State alum who has stepped in and is serving as the interim university president during what is certainly the most challenging period in the institution’s history, does deserve credit for attempting to tackle the gigantic problems the school faces.

Engler assumed the role of interim president only thirteen weeks ago.

In that span, he hasn’t been perfect – his initial attacks on ESPN and the media were off point and fell into the typical (and weak) patterns of schools, institutions, or individuals that want to look away from the real problems and focus on who can be blamed when the mirror is the place to find the ones responsible.

Engler has since left the howling about the media to others and that has served him and Michigan State well.

Engler has also let it be known in a recent exclusive interview with The Detroit News that he’s discovered a surprisingly ineffective and dysfunctional infrastructure that created blurred lines with regard to personnel reporting dynamics, communication processes, and overall operational integrity.

SpartansWire offered commentary on that interview with this column several weeks ago –

https://spartanswire.com/2018/04/30/engler-beginning-to-show-signs-of-leadership/

Engler has admirably reached out to specific Spartans who have their own stories of sexual assault or sexual misconduct experiences that, according to the victims, weren’t handled properly by the school many years ago.

And even with reports of a comment here or there during discussions with victims and/or their families, today’s announcement is an irrefutable illustration of the fact that Engler wants to do whatever he can to begin to show the victims the respect they deserve.

In so doing, Engler is showing that he wants to do whatever he can to restore the integrity of the university.

The story we’ve included below as it appears on ESPN.com concludes with a quote from Rachael Denhollander, the woman who has become the main spokesperson for the collection of victims that includes 332 individuals.

Denhollander’s remark is appreciated and understood: “The general tenor is that we’re not done yet.”

If my daughter had been a victim of Larry Nassar’s extreme and criminal depravity, I wouldn’t ever be “done” with my own commitment to making sure everything that could be done to properly address every aspect of the entire situation was done.

So, I respect not only the words that Denhollander says but the internal pain from which the words come.

My hope – and my expectation – is that John Engler and everyone at Michigan State University are saying the exact same words that Denholander is saying right now.

This should only be the beginning for Michigan State University.

What programs is the university creating on campus right now that can and will make MSU’s environment one where sexual assault is simply not tolerated?

What programs is the university creating on campus right now that makes it easy and safe for any victims of sexual assault of any kind to come forward and be welcomed with open arms by every part of the university and its community?

What former Spartans are making themselves available to come to campus and join in on the efforts to make Michigan State a leader for all universities to emulate when it comes to the ways in which this nationwide epidemic is being addressed?

Today’s announcement represents the first example of an authentic and tangible way in which unification is occurring.

There are undoubtedly so many people who are working tirelessly to make sure Michigan State grows and improves in so many ways from this horrible crisis.

But leadership always has and always will start at the very top.

And John Engler does, indeed, deserve credit for continuing to show leadership as he demonstrates compassion; as he communicates directly through emails to alumni and conducts interviews with the press; as he speaks candidly about the weaknesses that have existed within the university’s infrastructure; and how he has, obviously, worked to reach this settlement with the victims of Nassar’s horrific crimes.

The rest of Michigan State’s leaders can learn much from the way Engler has led recently.

Owning up to flaws and missteps is a sign of strength – it is not a weakness.

Spartans everywhere can be encouraged by Engler’s leadership right now and should push for the same sort of leadership to continue.

Michigan State to pay $500M to survivors of Larry Nassar’s abuse

Michigan State will pay $500 million to survivors of Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse in what is believed to be the largest settlement ever in a sexual misconduct case involving a university.

Attorneys representing 332 claimants reached an agreement with representatives from Michigan State during a mediation meeting Tuesday afternoon. The university’s board of trustees agreed to the deal in principle. The settlement did not include any other provisions about policy or acknowledging the claims made against Michigan State.

“I’m very happy that we’re done with litigation,” Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual abuse more than 18 months ago, said. “I’m very grateful for the historic number that acknowledges some of the hardships that these women have suffered. I’m also very disappointed in a missed opportunity to create meaningful policy changes.”

The suits claim that Nassar sexually abused his patients, many of them young female athletes, for more than two decades. They say that the other defendants had opportunities to put an end to Nassar’s abuse and failed to do so. They argued that those organizations were accountable for allowing the former doctor to prey on young women for as long as he did. The lawsuits also name USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic Committee and specific individuals at some of those institutions as defendants. Those parties have not yet reached a settlement agreement.

Michigan State’s agreement stipulates that $425 million of that money will be distributed to the claimants who are currently part of the lawsuits. An allocator will determine how much of that total each person will receive. The remaining $75 million will be held is reserve for two years in the event that others come forward and make claims about Nassar’s abuse.

Attorneys for both sides met this week in California to hash out the final details of an agreement. Former federal judge Layn Phillips served as the mediator for these cases and held an initial meeting with both sides in New York last month.

Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in state prison as part of a plea deal in criminal court. More than 200 people provided victim impact statements at his sentencing hearings in January. He is currently serving a 60-year federal prison sentence for child pornography charges.

Denhollander said she was happy to have the litigation part of this process behind her, but she and the 15-20 other women who were at the settlement talks aren’t done fighting for change. She said the next step is to focus on changing laws that will make it easier to hold institutions and others accountable for sexual abuse.

Denhollander has been a driving force in a package of bills that is currently working its way through the legislative process in Michigan. The new laws, if passed by members of the House, would significantly extend the statute of limitations on civil sexual abuse cases and remove sovereign immunity protections from government-operated institutions like a university.

“The general tenor is that we’re not done yet,” Denhollander said.

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