Feinstein wants independent Nassar probe at MSU

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California is pushing the Michigan State University board of trustees to commission an outside investigation into the school’s “mishandling” of sexual abuse allegations against MSU doctor Larry Nassar.

In a Thursdayletter to the board, the ranking Democrat of the Senate Judiciary Committee cited the “horrific findings” by The Detroit News last week that at least 14 university representatives were notified of “serious allegations” against Nassar over nearly 20 years, starting in 1997.

“I urge you to immediately commission an independent investigation into how Michigan State University handled all reported sexual abuse allegations against Dr. Nassar,” Feinstein wrote, saying the findings hsould include recommendations from subject-matter experts to reform the school’s student-athlete program.

“Student athletes should never feel unsafe participating in a sport they love or fear seeking help when they suffer from sports injuries. Nor should they ever fear that the institution that they so proudly represent – such as universities like Michigan State University – will have anything but the students’ best interests at heart.”

The MSU board last week asked Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette to conduct a probe – something he said he will launch following the final round of sentencing for Nassar.

An Ingham County judge sentenced Nassar, who was also a doctor for USA Gymnastics, to 40 to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing girls over more than two decades. More than 150 victims spoke out against him in court over the last week.

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, on Thursday also called on MSU to commission an independent investigation similar to those carried out at Penn State and Baylor universities in the wake of sexual misconduct scandals.

His office said it has contacted MSU regarding his concerns. Peters has also asked the Senate Commerce Committee – of which he’s a member – to convene hearings and investigations on the sexual abuse of collegiate and amateur athletes.

“This past week, more than 160 survivors of Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse gave voice to the trauma they suffered,” Peters said in a statement.

“We need to show that we heard them, that we listened to them, and that their bravery can be a positive force for change. Our children are watching, and the victims and survivors deserve nothing less.”

Peters said he also intends to introduce legislation to ensure that the leaders of colleges and universities have a clear responsibility and a requirement to be informed of all Title IX investigations involving employees, including sexual abuse investigations.

The U.S. House and Senate last year passed different versions of legislation requiring amateur and Olympic sports organizations to report suspected sexual abuse.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, said Thursday the chamber will vote on a final version of the bill next week.