Strampel retires ahead of possible firing by MSU

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News
Former Michigan State University Dean of Osteopathic Medicine William Strampel

William Strampel, the former dean of Michigan State University's College of Osteopathic Medicine, is retiring, becoming the latest official to leave the school in the wake of the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal.

MSU officials on Friday announced the retirement of Strampel, Nassar's ex-boss, as he is facing four criminal charges and a possible loss of his medical license. Strampel signed a retirement agreement Thursday, with an effective date of June 30.

Strampel, 70, also was facing the possible loss of tenure at MSU under a procedure Interim President John Engler called for in February. Under a new policy enacted by the Board of Trustees, Strampel had until Friday to decide whether to fight the dismissal proceeding, and lose benefits if the school won its case, or retire immediately.

The retirement agreement will not allow Strampel to receive emeritus status, a traditional and prestigious honor for retiring faculty. Strampel will also forgo other benefits typically awarded to high-level officials when they retire from MSU.

But he will receive basic retiree health care coverage for himself and his wife since he was hired in 1999, when the university offered that benefit to employees who retire after the age of 62 and have worked at the university for 15 years.  

“As I said before, Strampel has not acted with the level of professionalism expected of an MSU employee, particularly one holding an office with the responsibility of patient safety. His conduct and attitude were unacceptable and went against the values of this university,” Engler said in a statement. “While completing the tenure revocation process would have been highly satisfying, his immediate retirement means we have achieved the same goal — the end of the relationship between Strampel and MSU.” 

Of the eight-member MSU Board of Trustees, only Trustee Dianne Byrum could be reached Friday for comment.

"This ends Michigan State University’s relationship with William Strampel and his retirement is the best outcome given the options," Byrum said. "The recent policy changes made at MSU including the tenure policy revision, the new office of Enterprise Risk Management, Ethics and Compliance along with the reorganization of the health team are all positive steps forward and demonstrate we are serious when we say: never again.”

Under the agreement, Strampel will be paid $175,000, which the school said is a compromise settlement of the salary Strampel claims he would have been entitled to during the tenure revocation process, which can stretch on for months or more. His salary at MSU was $217,903 a year. 

Tenure is a status in higher education that gives a scholar an indefinite appointment at an institution and is intended to ensure academic freedom.

Neither Strampel nor his attorney, John Dakmak, did not respond to messages seeking comment Friday.

Nicole Eastman, a College of Osteopathic Medicine graduate, said she had several bad experiences involving  Strampel, including one in the mid-2000s in which he  he told her women digest alcohol more slowly so it was easier to get them drunk and have sex with them. He also allegedly grabbed her behind at a fundraiser ball.

She said she was thrilled to hear of Strampel's retirement from MSU.

"The MSU culture of silence enabled his behavior, but that silence is broken now," said Eastman, who is an alleged victim in criminal charges lodged against Strampel. "I don't wish ill on anyone, but I also don't believe that someone who abuses a position of power should continue to be rewarded for their time through tenure ...  I do hope that justice is served and he is held responsible criminally."

Added Morgan McCaul, one of Nassar's victims, on Twitter: "So ... you can literally be charged with sexually assaulting and harassing students by the MI Attorney General without being fired by (Michigan State). Scary."

The MSU Board of Trustees encouraged Strampel's retirement by approving a change to university tenure policy at its meeting last month.

Under the new policy, once written charges have been filed with the school's president and the chair of the University Committee on Faculty Tenure, a faculty member may not obtain official retiree status while his case is pending.

Formal charges had not yet been filed  against Strampel but a dismissal for cause officer had conducted an investigation and delivered a confidential recommendation to Provost June Youatt.

Strampel had until Friday to meet with her, and then charges could have been formally filed if Youatt had chosen to make a recommendation to Engler to proceed with revoking Strampel's tenure. 

Strampel's retirement follows the departure of Nassar, who was fired by the university in September 2016 after Rachael Denhollander became the first to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual assault under the guise of a medical treatment.

More than 250 women and girls with similar accusations came forward after Denhollander. Nassar eventually pleaded guilty to criminal sexual conduct and possession of child pornography, and judges handed him three sentences that will keep him in prison for life.

But a Detroit News investigation showed that many MSU officials were alerted about Nassar long before Denhollander went public.

Former MSU head gymnastics coach Kathie Klages was among the first to step down, in February 2017, after two former gymnasts filed lawsuits against MSU and other institutions, saying they told had Klages about Nassar in 1997.

Nearly a year later, in January 2018, former MSU President Lou Anna Simon resigned on the same night that Ingham County Judge Rosemarie Aquilina sentenced Nassar to 40-175 years in prison. A few days later, former MSU Athletic Director Mark Hollis also stepped down.

As Nassar's criminal proceedings were concluding, the Board of Trustees asked the Michigan Attorney General’s office to launch an investigation into how he flourished for so long at MSU.

One month later, in March, special AG prosecutor William Forsyth announced the first criminal charges at MSU against Strampel, who took a medical leave last December. 

Forsyth charged Strampel with  felony misconduct in office, a misdemeanor charge of criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree and two misdemeanor charges of willful neglect of duty. Authorities allege Strampel used his position of power to harass, proposition and sexually assault young women.

Strampel also allegedly failed to enforce or monitor protocols put in place for Nassar in 2014 after a female patient alleged inappropriate sexual conduct. Officials say he allowed Nassar to return to work one month before MSU completed a Title IX investigation into his behavior that cleared Nassar of wrongdoing.

More allegation against Strampel emerged in April, when comments from Strampel's 2015 review emerged, depicting him making comments about the appearance of women, asking them to wear low-cut shirts to meetings with him and looking at women's breasts while talking with them. 

Strampel made his first court appearance last month at a preliminary hearing where witnesses testified and several explicit images were admitted into evidence. A judge bound him over to stand trial in Ingham County Circuit Court. His first appearance in that court is scheduled for Thursday.

 Meanwhile, state officials are reviewing Strampel's medical license. The AG's office recently announced a complaint against Strampel alleging license violations, including negligence and incompetence.