Editorial: MSU must come clean in abuse case

The Detroit News

Michigan State University must come completely clean on the sexual molestation of nearly 150 gymnasts by a team doctor who was on the school’s payroll. That starts with making public the internal report MSU commissioned to determine culpability for the scandal.

The university has been unacceptably sparing with the release of information that would help determine who knew what and when in regards to the abuses of Dr. Larry Nassar, the gymnastics team physician who has pleaded guilty to 10 counts of rape already and faces more charges.

The report, commissioned by the board of regents, was conducted by former federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald of the Valerie Plame Affair fame, but has not been released by the board.

The reason is obvious: The board, MSU President Lou Anna Simon and other school officials are named in the 144 federal lawsuit charging the university did not meeting its responsibility in protecting the young gymnasts from a sexual predator and the school is hoping to contain its liability.

Only Nassar has faced accountability.

Even the coach, Kathy Klages, who blew off the concerns of gymnasts about Nassar’s unorthodox treatment, which often included genital penetration, was allowed to retire with her pension without facing the consequences of her actions. Nassar’s supervisor, who sent the doctor a letter demanding he alter his treatment methods, has not faced inquiry, either.

This is curious. A very similar sexual misconduct scandal at Penn State University resulted in criminal charges against several school officials, including the president, vice president and athletic director.

But at MSU, there seems no sense of urgency to determine whether official negligence enabled Nassar’s assaults.

Attorney General Bill Schuette appears ready to change that. He wrote a letter this week asking Simon to release Fitzgerald’s report.

Hopefully this will be the start of a more comprehensive investigation, and one that should have begun months ago.

Nassar’s victims face a lifetime of trauma because of his attacks. Those girls and young women deserve answers to why they weren’t protected by Michigan State.

Hopefully, they will get some of them later this month when the lawsuits pending in the Grand Rapids federal court enter the discovery stage. Simon, the trustees and other university officials named in the suits will likely be subpoenaed.

Before it gets to that point, MSU should make public what it knows.

These lawsuits have the potential to be enormously costly for the college. Penn State’s liability totaled nearly $250 million. More than five times as many suits have been filed against MSU, meaning the payouts could top $1 billion.

In the face of such potential cost, a public university should be transparent about what it knows.

Schuette, in his letter to Simon, said the Fitzgerald report is critical to understanding what happened in the MSU gymnastic program, and who other than Nassar might share responsibility. He’s right.

Simon must release the report to preserve her integrity and credibility and that of Michigan State University.