Education Department Hits Michigan State With Record Fine Over Nassar Scandal

WASHINGTON — Michigan State University will pay a record $4.5 million fine for failing to protect students from sexual abuse following a sweeping investigation into the university’s response to allegations against a former team doctor and convicted sex criminal, Lawrence G. Nassar, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced Thursday.

The fine is part of a settlement with the Education Department, which initiated two investigations into the university’s handling of abuse allegations against Mr. Nassar, a former doctor for the American women’s gymnastics team, who held several positions at the school, and William Strampel, a former dean.

“What happened at Michigan State University was abhorrent,” Ms. DeVos said in a press call. “The crimes for which Larry Nassar and William Strampel have been convicted are disgusting and unimaginable. So too was the university’s response to their crimes.”

The fine, though dwarfed by the university’s $500 million civil settlement with sexually abused young women, was the largest ever levied under the Clery Act, a federal law that requires colleges to report all campus crimes. The department’s federal student aid office found a number of violations of the law, including a failure to properly report incidents and disclose crime statistics, and a failure to notify campus security of complaints.

Separately, Ms. DeVos had ordered the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights to investigate whether the university met its obligations under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that requires schools to respond to and address sexual assaults on campus. That investigation found that the university did not adequately respond to complaints against Mr. Nassar and Mr. Strampel, had subjected students to a sexually hostile environment, and had repeatedly failed to take appropriate and prompt action when notified of complaints.

“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,” Ms. DeVos said.

In addition to the fine, the university entered agreements with both Education Department offices that will require it create a system for complying with the Clery Act, and to take a number of measures to overhaul its Title IX process. The university will have to offer remedies to those impacted by the sexual misconduct.

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