Federal regulators Thursday slapped Michigan State University with a $4.5 million fine stemming from the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal.
The fine is the largest on record against a university charged with failure to protect students from sexual abuse. The largest fine prior to this was $2.4 million the U.S. Department of Education levied upon Penn State stemming from the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal.
In both cases, university officials were charged with failing to act on allegations against prominent campus figures who were later convicted of multiple counts of sexual abuse. Federal law requires universities and colleges to heed Title IX of the Civil Rights Act with regards to sexual harassment and discrimination. The Campus Security Act also requires that they publish reports of crime on and around campus and to issue timely warnings to students of threats.
Nassar, once a respected Michigan State and USA Gymnastics sports medicine doctor, was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison in 2018 after more than 150 young women, including several Olympic gymnasts, stepped forward to testify that he sexually abused them. The scandal that rocked the sports world prompted the resignation of the university’s president and athletic director
Earlier this year, William Strampel, the former dean of Michigan State’s osteopathic medical school who had oversight responsibilities for Nassar, was sentenced to one year in prison following his conviction for neglect of duty and misconduct in office stemming from allegations that he sexually harassed students.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said the fine levied against Michigan State should send a message to students, faculty and staff at colleges across the nation that sexual misconduct will not be ignored and that universities will be held accountable if that occurs.
“What transpired at Michigan State was abhorrent, inexcusable, and a total and complete failure to follow the law and protect students. Michigan State will now pay for its failures and will be required to make meaningful changes to how it handles Title IX cases moving forward. No future student should have to endure what too many did because concerns about Larry Nassar and William Strampel were ignored,” DeVos said, announcing the fines.