Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon has taken the first two important steps in making things right with the scores of young women and girls who were molested by an MSU physician attached to the gymnastics program.
Simon, who has been under fire for her lack of urgency in addressing the university’s possible culpability in the serial sexual assaults by Dr. Larry Nassar, issued a belated apology last week.
“I am truly sorry for the abuse you suffered, the pain it caused and the pain it continues to cause today,” Simon said. “I’m sorry a physician who called himself a Spartan so utterly betrayed your trust and everything this university stands for.”
At least 125 women have made criminal complaints against Nassar, and roughly 150 lawsuits have been filed in federal court that accuse the university and its officials, including Simon, of negligence in protecting the gymnasts from the doctor.
In addition to the apology, Simon announced a $10 million fund to help those who suffered abuse to seek counseling and other assistance.
These are important and necessary actions. The next is transparency.
Simon and MSU have not been forthcoming about whether anyone in the university was told of the molestations and failed to act on behalf of the girls.
The MSU trustees hired an outside investigator, former federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, to explore the question. He concluded that Nassar “had everyone fooled” and said issuing a written report of his findings was unnecessary.
Frankly, that’s absurd. The avoidance of a written report is clearly intended to avoid having the document subpoenaed when the liability cases go to trial.
And for Fitzgerald to say no one beyond Nassar had knowledge of the complaints against him flies in the face of the known facts. Clearly, Coach Kathy Klages knew of the concerns. She admonished the girls who raised them that they were overreacting, and discouraged other gymnasts from making similar complaints. She was suspended and then allowed to retire.
Nassar’s boss, Dr. William Strampel, who until last week headed the MSU osteopathic program, apparently knew of the concerns as well. He wrote the doctor a letter advising him to change his tactics.
Strampel went on leave last week, but remains on staff and presumably on the payroll.
Both expressed support for Nassar even after girls began questioning his treatment.
Who else did the victims tell? That’s a key question, but it’s one MSU is showing no urgency to answer. There’s nothing to indicate that Fitzgerald even interviewed the girls who charge that Nassar molested them. So how can he know that no one at the university had knowledge of what was happening?
Simon’s apology is welcome, as is the financial assistance for the victims.
But what the girls want to know is who, if anyone, at MSU failed them. They deserve that answer.