Washington — Education Secretary Betsy DeVos says her department is investigating Michigan State University, vowing to hold the public university in her home state accountable for any violations of federal law.
DeVos made the announcement after MSU and USA Gynmastics sports doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced this week to 40 to 175 years in prison for first-degree sexual misconduct charges after more than 150 women and girls said he had sexually abused them.
Nassar is currently serving a 60-year federal prison sentence for possession of child pornography.
“My heart breaks for the survivors of Larry Nassar’s disgusting crimes,” DeVos said in a statement. “What happened at Michigan State is abhorrent. It cannot ever happen again — there or anywhere. Students must be safe and protected on our nation’s campuses.”
Michigan State has been under federal oversight since at least 2014 after complaints about its mishandling of sexual assault and gender discrimination cases.
ESPN reported this week that Michigan State administrators in October had asked the Department of Education to end its monitoring of the university.
But education officials denied that request – in part because MSU had failed to notify the department that the university had Title IX and campus police probes underway of Nassar. ESPN also reported that MSU still has not provided to federal officials all documents related to the Nassar allegations.
National attention to the Nassar scandal heightened last week after a Detroit News investigation found that at least eight women reported sexual misconduct by Nassar to at least 14 MSU representatives in the two decades before his arrest.
Several federal lawmakers, including Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, and Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, have called on congressional investigators to open inquiries into MSU, the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics’ handling of the Nassar case.
Three more Michigan lawmakers made a similar request Friday of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over sports.
Committee members and Reps. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph; Tim Walberg, R-Tipton; and Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, asked the panel’s chairman to hold hearings and open an investigation.
“Families in Michigan and throughout the country were traumatized to learn the perverse details of this tragedy,” the members said in a joint statement.
“It is incumbent on all of us to ensure this never happens again and to learn the role that USOC, USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University played in the tragedy.”