Our editorial: MSU knowingly kept a predator on payroll

The Detroit News

The excerpts from Dr. William Strampel’s performance review raise a critical question: What’s it take to get fired from Michigan State University? The former dean of the MSU osteopathic program was subjected to an extensive evaluation process in 2010 in which the university invited comments from his peers, students and others with whom he had interactions.

Comments obtained by The Detroit News paint Strampel as a misogynist, a sexual predator and an all-around P-I-G who apparently believed his value to the university entitled him to engage in outrageous behavior without consequences.

Strampel, according to the commenters in 2010 as well as the criminal charges against him, was obsessed with sex, infusing too many conversations with sexual references, commenting on women’s bodies, suggesting to students and colleagues alike that he was open to sexual favors in return for his assistance.

Female students recounted being publicly humiliated by Strampel, with one even complaining that he suggested publicly during a large university meeting that he was the father of her child.

And yet the outcome of such a disturbing review was that former MSU Provost Kim Wilcox issued a letter declaring Strampel would not only continue as dean, but offering praise for his advancement “of the goals of the College within the broad mission of Michigan State University.”

Last week, Strampel was charged by Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office with several counts of sexual misconduct and neglect of duty as part of an investigation of MSU’s handling of the Dr. Larry Nassar scandal. Nassar molested hundreds of girls and young women, mostly in the gymnastics program, over the course of two decades while he was employed by the university.

Strampel was Nassar’s boss, and failed to act when complaints about the doctor were brought to his attention.

Details of the charges suggest why he was dismissive of Nassar’s victims. Photographs of nude women, including MSU students, were found on Strampel’s computer, as was a video of the controversial genital manipulation procedure Nassar conducted and which led to his sexual assault convictions.

More than 200 of Nassar’s victims are suing MSU. The revelations about Strampel’s complicity gives their complaints against the university more credibility and will almost certainly fatten the settlements that are currently being negotiated.

The bottom line: MSU had every reason to believe that it had a sexual predator on its payroll in the form of William Strampel and failed to act. The school’s neglect in 2010 contributed to Nassar’s ability to continue molesting women even after complaints were raised.

One of the first acts by interim President John Engler was to fire Strampel and revoke his tenure.

That came even before the criminal charges were filed.

Had the university taken those same steps against Strampel in 2010, scores of girls and young women may have been spared from the abuse they suffered at Nassar’s hands.