MSU probing sex assault claims linked to football team

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — Michigan State University announced on Thursday that campus police are investigating allegations of sexual assault by three student-athletes while the university is also conducting a Title IX investigation of the sexual assault allegations.

The three student-athletes have been suspended from team activities and removed from on-campus housing pending conclusion of police and Title IX investigations, according to a statement released by Michigan State spokesman Jason Cody.

The university has also retained an external law firm to conduct an independent investigation into football program staff members’ compliance with university policy in connection with the allegations that were made in late January.

The statement added that one staff member associated with the football program has been suspended by the Athletics Department pending the completion of that investigation.

“Michigan State University has made significant strides in making its Title IX program align with the best practices developed throughout the nation,” Cody said in the statement. “Sexual violence is abhorrent, and no member of our community should be threatened in this way. MSU has been proactive in education and prevention efforts and is strongly committed to fostering an environment that encourages sexual assault reporting and supports victims.

“Every employee has a clear responsibility to follow the university’s well-established reporting protocols regarding sexual assault. MSU will not tolerate failure to follow established reporting protocols, interference with law enforcement efforts, or lack of cooperation with any Title IX investigation.”

The news of the investigation comes on the heels of news Thursday that senior defensive end Demetrius Cooper was charged with misdemeanor assault for allegedly spitting in the face of an East Lansing Parking and Code Enforcement

“The core values of MSU Athletics are clear, consistently communicated and non-negotiable,” Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said in a statement. “Among them are respect for self and others, accountability for actions and choices, and integrity. Sexual assault is unacceptable, and members of MSU Athletics who fail to uphold our standards for creating a culture that is safe, supportive, and responsive to those affected by it will be held accountable. My expectation of all members of the department is full and complete cooperation with all investigations.

“We have a strong athletics program at MSU, one based on values, traditions, and an understanding that as Spartans we are part of something bigger. Our promise to current and future student-athletes and to the entire Spartan community is to take the steps necessary, based on the facts determined through thorough review, to run this program according to the highest values and standards.”

This is the second high-profile investigation of sexual assault at Michigan State as fired doctor Larry Nassar is facing civil lawsuits from more than two dozen former athletes who say they were assaulted during treatments from Nassar during his time with the University and with USA Gymnastics.

At least 20 females are suing Nassar, who they say assaulted them under the guise of treatment. The claims span 20 years and the accusers ranged in age from 9-29.

“Our top priority continues to be ensuring justice is served,” MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon wrote in the email to the MSU community. “The MSU Police Department is dedicating significant resources to this investigation and is coordinating with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the state Attorney General. We are fully cooperating with every aspect of the ongoing criminal investigations and have urged all members of the MSU community to do so as well.”