Engler: MSU to continue mediation with Nassar accusers

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Michigan State University and attorneys for accusers of Larry Nassar met for two days this week and have agreed to “an ongoing confidential mediation process,” interim President John Engler wrote to in an email to the campus community Friday.

“Our university community shares the utmost concern for the welfare of all survivors of sexual abuse,” Engler wrote. “The breadth of the expression of our community’s concern for the survivors is impressive. Students and victims’ advocates have made their feelings clear. So have many faculty, staff, and leaders.

“While we might differ on how best to express it,” Engler continued, “we agree on the need to treat the Nassar survivors fairly and with respect, and this situation with the gravity it deserves. That means it is also important that this campus be made as secure from sexual harassment and sexual assault as we can make it.”

The next sessions are scheduled for May 14 and 15.

This week’s sessions took place in New York with a goal of reaching a settlement that some believe will close the long chapter of Nassar, a former MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor who admitted to possessing images of child pornography and sexually abusing females under the guise of a medical treatment for more than two decades. He is in a high-security federal prison in Tucson.

More than 300 accusers have filed federal lawsuits against the university, the Board of Trustees, USAG, Gedderts’ Twistars USA and several past and present MSU employees, including Kathie Klages, William Strampel, Dr. Douglas Dietzel, Dr. Jeffrey Kovan, Dr. Brooke Lemmen and Kristine Moore.

It is the second mediation between the two sides. The first effort, which began last summer, failed in December.

Attorneys involved in the process said they are sworn to secrecy but expressed confidence in the proceedings thus far.

“We’re cautiously optimistic,” said Jamie White, an Okemos-based attorney for 50 of Nassar’s accusers.

If the parties come to a resolution, it is expected to be one of the largest sexual assault settlements in history, far eclipsing the agreement Penn State University reached with victims in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal. Penn State’s agreement was reached with 33 victims, whereas MSU is facing nearly 10 times more plaintiffs.