Federal report finds Michigan State in violation of campus-safety law

Hannah Denaer, Staff Writer

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On Dec. 14, 2018, the U.S. Department of Education released a 46-page report on Michigan State University in which several violations of the Clery Act were detailed. The Clery Act mandates that universities and colleges that receive federal funding must annually release a public security report to employees and students; campus crime statistics must be included within the report.

The investigation of MSU began in February of 2018 after the Indianapolis Star published an article in which it was stated that “a Michigan State sports medicine doctor, Lawrence G. Nassar (Nassar), had been accused of committing sexual crimes against his patients, under the guise of medical treatment, and how USA Gymnastics (USAG) failed to report to law enforcement multiple sexual abuse allegations against Nassar and its medical staff.”

The report states that MSU failed to provide accurate crime statistics as the sex crimes committed by Nassar were not recorded. Several anonymous survivors whose reports of Nassar’s assaults were never recorded are provided as examples. “Between 2008 and 2010, Survivor I reported that Nassar had sexually assaulted her, yet no reports of this crime were properly lodged in accordance with the Clery Act,” says the report. MSU’s failure to report crimes creates another violation: the failure to warn students of a threat on campus. The university’s negligence in issuing warnings was not limited to the threat posed by Nassar but also included 21 robberies or burglaries that occurred without the University notifying students of possible danger.

These violations may lead to financial penalties for MSU. According to ESPN, other universities have faced penalties, and, “the largest was the nearly $2.4 million fine levied against Penn State University in November 2016 in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal.” However, no final determination has been made yet as the Department of Education is waiting on a written response from the University.

MSU released a response to the report on Jan. 30, 2019, emphasizing the University’s willingness to cooperate. “The safety and well-being of our campus community is our top priority,” said Satish Udpa, MSU’s current president. Regardless of whether or not the University will face financial penalties, it is clear that policy changes are necessary to reassure students and staff of their safety on campus.