Not days after disgraced former Michigan State and USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to 175 years in prison for sexual abuse, a new report has found that the issue goes far beyond the gymnastics department.
ESPN investigative reporters Paula Lavigne and Nicole Noren have found that several team members, coaches, and affiliates have made widespread attempts to cover up sexual misconduct during their tenure at the university.
The report says:
Over the past three years, MSU has three times fought in court — unsuccessfully — to withhold names of athletes in campus police records. The school has also deleted so much information from some incident reports that they were nearly unreadable. In circumstances in which administrators have commissioned internal examinations to review how they have handled certain sexual violence complaints, officials have been selective in releasing information publicly. In one case, a university-hired outside investigator claimed to have not even generated a written report at the conclusion of his work. And attorneys who have represented accusers and the accused agree on this: University officials have not always been transparent, and often put the school’s reputation above the need to give fair treatment to those reporting sexual violence and to the alleged perpetrators.
According to Lavigne and Noren, “incidents” have made their way up to basketball head coach Tom Izzo, football coach Mark Dantonio, and even Athletic Director Mark Hollis who announced he would be stepping aside on Wednesday.
In the past 11 years since Mark Dantonio took over as head MSU football coach, 16 or more football players have been accused of sexual misconduct and violence. In June 2017, Dantonio falsely told a media gaggle that the sexual misconduct was uncharacteristic for his team. “We’ve been here 11 years,” he said. “It has not happened previously.”
Many MSU officials and affiliates have issued complaints that the university has mishandled sexual misconduct, violence, and gender discrimination. in 2015, the university’s sexual assault counselor Lauren Allswede stepped down, citing irreconcilable frustration with how assaults were addressed. Too often, she said, accusations were dealt with haphazardly and internally by coaches or the Athletic Director.
Allegations about athletes’ sexual misconduct may be alarming and to many, it’s surprising. Michigan State president Lou Anna Simon was recently inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall Of Fame for driving global engagement in science and helping to advance women’s interests in education. She announced she would also be stepping down from her post as MSU president on Wednesday.
It’s unclear where Michigan State goes from here, as more allegations are expected to bubble to the surface. A state college has not experienced a scandal of this magnitude since Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted for serial rape and sexual abuse in 2012. Some commentators have suggested that the Michigan State revelations may be far worse than Penn State’s when all is said and done.
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