WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Education has imposed a record $4.5 million fine on Michigan State University over the Larry Nassar scandal.
The Lansing-based university was reprimanded for its failure to protect students from sexual abuse and was ordered to make changes.
Two separate investigations had been launched into the university following the scandal, during which Nassar, a former sports doctor for both the university and USA Gymnastics, was accused of sexual abuse by more than 350 women.
“Michigan State University did not adequately respond to complaints against Dr. Nassar and (former university) Dean (William) Strampel and thereby subjected students to a sexually hostile environment that denied them access to and the ability to benefit from their education,” U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in a conference call, according to Reuters.
Nassar was sentenced in two different trials to 300 years in prison for having abused young female gymnasts. He abused more than 265 through his practice at the university, which has been criticized for its handling of the case.
Athletes had complained about Nassar since the 1990s, but an investigation was not launched until 2014.
“Too many people in power knew about the behaviors and the complaints and yet the predators continued on the payroll and abused even more students,” DeVos said.
Strampel was arrested in March 2018 and charged with criminal sexual misconduct. He was sentenced to a year in jail for neglect of duty and misconduct in office and will be appealing his conviction, his lawyer, John Dakmak, said.
Among the changes in policy being implemented at MSU are an overhaul of procedures for Title IX, the civil rights law barring discrimination on the basis of sex, and potentially firing employees who failed to take action in the face of complaints against Nassar and Strampel, the Education Department said.
“The agreements with U.S. Department of Education further remind us that we failed survivors and our community…While we have made some improvements, it’s by no means sufficient or the end of the road,” said Samuel L. Stanley Jr., Michigan State University’s president, in a statement.
In May, the university agreed to pay $425 million to 332 of Nassar’s victims and to set aside another $75 million for any future plaintiffs.