Lansing — Michigan State University Interim President John Engler announced Friday he is working to fire convicted pedophile Larry Nassar’s boss, who had recently stepped down on medical leave.
Engler submitted a request to the Office of Provost beginning the process to revoke the tenure of William Strampel, the former dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine. He also announced MSU will not cover any of Strampel’s legal expenses related to the Nassar sexual assault scandal.
Suresh Mukherji, chairman of the Department of Radiology and chief medical officer of the MSU HealthTeam, also has been suspended, according to Engler spokesman John Truscott.
Strampel has been named in lawsuits filed against MSU and Nassar, who was sentenced in multiple counties after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting girls and young women during medical treatment.
A Detroit News investigation found that Strampel was one of at least 14 staff members at MSU who received reports of sexual misconduct by Nassar in the two decades before the former sports doctor’s arrest.
“William Strampel did not act with the level of professionalism we expect from individuals who hold senior leadership positions, particularly in a position that involves student and patient safety,” Engler said in a statement.
“Further, allegations have arisen that question whether his personal conduct over a long period of time met MSU’s standards. We are sending an unmistakable message today that we will remove employees who do not treat students, faculty, staff, or anyone else in our community in an appropriate manner.”
Strampel did not immediately respond to a voicemail seeking comment.
Engler cannot simply fire Strampel because he is a tenured faculty member. A faculty hearing committee must first find that cause exists to revoke that tenure, the university said Friday.
“I sincerely hope the courageous survivors of Larry Nassar will see this as an unmistakable indication that things are changing quickly at Michigan State,” Engler said. “I said last week that their efforts would not be in vain. This is just the first step in restoring trust in Michigan State.”
Carol Viventi, new vice president and special counsel to the president under Engler, requested “dismissal for cause” proceedings against Strampel in a memo to Provost June Youatt.
Trying to revoke Strampel’s tenure does not address the systemic problems at the university that allowed Nassar’s abuse to go on for two decades, said Phylis Floyd, a professor of art history in the College of Arts and Letters.
“There are inklings of problems that, on too many occasions, I believe the administration and even individual faculty who see it push it away … to get along they just go along. And I think that is a systemic problem at Michigan State that enabled this,” she said.
In September 2016, days after a former Kalamazoo woman, Rachael Denhollander, filed a police report and told the Indianapolis Star that Nassar sexually assaulted her as a child, Nassar sent an email to two MSU officials: Strampel and Mukherji.
“I am so sorry that this situation has been so public in the media casting such a shadow over myself and MSU,” Nassar wrote. “I understand your position and appreciate all the support you have given me. My heart is breaking but I will stay strong in my faith and with the support of my family and friends I will overcome this.”
Mukherji and Strampel also wrote Nassar a letter that month — days before the disgraced doctor’s firing from the university — outlining complaints from two patients that he was not following protocols required after a 2014 Title IX complaint investigation that accused Nassar of being sexually aroused after touching her during an exam.
“This is a serious breach, and not acceptable,” the letter said.
According to Viventi in regard to the 2014 Title IX investigation, Strampel “did not notify the MSU HealthTeam about the guidelines or establish any system within the Sports Medicine Clinic to monitor or enforce the guidelines.”
“It would be incompatible with the expectations for teaching and clinical faculty within the College of Osteopathic Medicine for Dr. Strampel to resume his faculty appointment given his lack of action described above,” Viventi wrote in the memo.
MSU’s dismissal process, which is designed to protect experienced professors from arbitrary firings and safeguard their intellectual freedom, could take months.
Strampel or an attorney would have the chance to refute claims against him in a hearing before a committee comprised of three tenured faculty members, according to the MSU faculty handbook.
After a determination by the committee, a possible appeal, a written comment period and a final report by Engler, the Board of Trustees could dismiss Strampel or impose some other form of discipline.
Last December, Strampel announced he would take a leave of absence for medical reasons. He planned to remain a faculty member, according to the university.
Truscott said he might be able to provide more details about Mukherji’s suspension at a later date: “All I can say is that we expect full cooperation from everyone in the MSU community regarding all investigations.”
Youatt, in a Feb. 7 letter to Mukherji, told him he was suspended immediately “pending a review of concerns that have been expressed about your leadership and departmental communications.”
“It is my expectation that you will cooperate fully with that review and any other pending investigations and will refrain from any actions that might be viewed as retaliatory against individuals who brought concerns forward,” she wrote.
Mukherji, who could not be reached for comment, serves on the state “Certificate of Need” health care commission appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder.
Agents from Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office executed a search warrant at MSU Feb. 2 as Special Prosecutor Bill Forsyth sought every record from the university related to Strampel, former women’s gymnastics coach Kathie Klages, as well as emails and text messages sent to or from former MSU President Lou Anna Simon regarding the convicted sports doctor.
Engler complained about the unannounced search on Monday, noting the presence of “camera crews” to suggest that Schuette’s office had alerted the media. He also pointed out his public promise to cooperate with any investigation into MSU.
Lawyers from MSU and the attorney general’s office met later Monday and have developed a “very cordial and cooperative relationship,” Truscott said.
Engler said Friday the university is continuing to turn over digital data to Schuette’s office and is “proud” of the prompt compliance.
Private attorneys working for MSU on Monday produced approximately 25,000 pages of electronic calendar entries by Strampel and plan to produce another 20,000 pages Friday, according to a letter to Forsyth and the attorney general’s office.
Attorney Pat Fitzgerald said those additional materials include investigatory files related to Nassar and other employees, personnel files, MSU Health Team policies, university relationship violence and sexual misconduct policies, organizational charges and materials previously produced in public records requests related to Nassar.
“We are diligently working to collect and produce additional material,” Fitzgerald wrote.
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