Nassar assaulted his victims over the course of two-plus decades starting in the mid-1990s, much of the abuse taking place in his examination room in a campus building brimming with university staff. Nassar’s victims, many of them student athletes or professional gymnasts, described the former associate professor groping their genitalia for extended amounts of time. Nassar was eventually sentenced to between 40 and 175 years in prison.
Numerous attempts to report Nassar were allegedly ignored or otherwise mishandled, including by MSU coaches and other administrators, according to lawsuits and victims’ testimony. After conducting its own Title IX investigation into a complaint filed by a student in 2014 detailing Nassar’s alleged abuse, the school concluded in a report provided to the accuser that he had simply provided “medically appropriate” treatments and hadn’t engaged in misconduct, records show. Findings distributed internally, on the other hand, censured Nassar’s actions, concluding that he had inflicted “unnecessary trauma” on his students, according to reporting by The Detroit News in January 2018. The investigation was spearheaded by an attorney employed by MSU full-time as its Title IX coordinator; that employee was subsequently tapped as the university’s assistant general counsel, a position she holds to this day, according to the school’s website.
However, as bad as the Nassar situation was, it was just part of the infractions that led to the Education Department’s fines. Just after Nassar’s sentencing last spring, a separate investigation—this one conducted by law-enforcement officials—uncovered evidence that William Strampel, then the dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine, had himself propositioned and molested students. Strampel, who resigned as dean in late 2017, was eventually charged with criminal sexual misconduct and willful neglect of duty. He was recently sentenced to a year of prison time, for both his own misdeeds and, additionally, his failure to protect students from Nassar, who worked beneath him.
In a statement, the Education Department described MSU’s “systemic failure to protect students from sexual abuse.” Specifically, the university “failed to take appropriate interim measures to protect its students while complaints against Nassar and Strampel were pending, and failed to take prompt and effective steps to end any harassment, eliminate the hostile environment, and prevent any further harassment from recurring,” the department stated. The department’s investigation found that the university violated four federal-policy requirements, including crime-reporting duties and a commitment to issue timely warnings on campus.
"What transpired at Michigan State was abhorrent, inexcusable, and a total and complete failure to follow the law and protect students," DeVos said in a call with reporters. “I want to thank each of the survivors who came forward and shared their stories. Doing so took an incredible amount of courage. Never again should incidents of sexual misconduct on campuses—or anywhere—be swept under the rug.”