Title IX expert: MSU rape allegation needs inquiry
A former Michigan State University athletic director and Title IX expert said Wednesday that investigators -- preferably from outside the university -- need to determine whether school officials reported a rape allegation that a former student says she made in 1992 against Larry Nassar.
In a federal suit filed Monday, former MSU field hockey player Erika Davis alleges that Nassar raped her and filmed the assault, and that when her coach complained about it, former athletic director George Perles intervened and covered it up.
Merrily Dean Baker, who succeeded Perles as athletic director in May 1992, said an inquiry is needed to determine whether Perles and field hockey coach Martha Ludwig reported the accusation of rape to MSU's Title IX office and whether there was an investigation.
If not, the federal Title IX law was broken, said Baker, who was part of a committee that wrote guidelines for enforcement of the 1972 federal legislation, which bars gender discrimination in federally supported programs, including those at universities.
"There are too many questions and too much liability involved," said Baker. “If (MSU) wants to come out of this whole at any point, they’d better start following the procedures and get it done properly so that people can trust the answers that are given.”
"The allegations are very severe," she continued. "If what this woman says happened to her the way it did and the adults didn't follow the required law, they should be held accountable."
MSU, along with the Michigan Attorney General's office, said this week they were investigating the allegations. But it was unclear whether MSU was conducting an investigation internally or using professionals from outside the university.
Perles did not respond to phone messages left for him Tuesday and Wednesday.
Baker said she did not know Davis and never heard of the alleged incident until this week, when she was informed of the lawsuit and reviewed it.
That suit alleged that Nassar, then an MSU osteopathic medical student, drugged Davis and then filmed himself raping her, resulting in a pregnancy that she later miscarried.
Ludwig, Davis' coach, confronted Nassar and demanded the tape recording, according to the lawsuit.
Perles intervened, charges were dropped against Ludwig, but she was forced to return the video, resign and sign a nondisclosure agreement, the complaint alleges. Ludwig allegedly kept a copy of the videotape.
Later in 1992, when Davis discovered she was pregnant, she went to police, the lawsuit alleges. But police officials said they were powerless to investigate allegations concerning the MSU athletic department, and recommended that she take her complaint there, according to the suit.
When Davis told police she had already taken it the MSU athletic department and it was dismissed, one police officer said, "George Perles is a 'powerful man,' and she should just drop it," according to the lawsuit.
Nassar, who was a sports doctor for MSU and USA Gymnastics, is serving a de facto life prison sentence after pleading guilty to first-degree criminal sexual conduct and possession of child pornography. A Detroit News investigation found at least 14 MSU representatives received reports of his conduct over two decades.
In the early 1970s, Baker was tapped to be on a committee to interpret the Title IX law passed by Congress and develop guidelines to be adopted by the federal Office of Civil Rights.
The law mandates that any allegations of sexual misconduct be reported and investigated.
Baker was at the university during the time frame of the alleged incident, and was the second woman in the country to serve as an athletic director for a Division I men and women's programs.
She said there are many inconsistencies in the lawsuit that raise questions. She said she can't understand why she didn't hear about the rape allegation since she was a woman, a Title IX expert and had coached field hockey.
"This needs to be looked into, this needs to be properly investigated," Baker said. "It’s not clean. It begs to be investigated."
Davis' lawyer, New York-based Jordan Merson could not be reached to address questions about the time frame of the incidents outlined in the lawsuit.
Baker said she, and others, can't make any judgments until a investigation shows the facts.
"We need to find out if there were laws broken or university policy violated or state laws broken or Big Ten conference laws broken," Baker said. "You can't make a judgment about any of that until it has been investigated."