LANSING — Even as he faces charges of sexual misconduct and other crimes committed on the job, the former dean of Michigan State University's College of Osteopathic Medicine — the longtime supervisor of disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar — can continue to draw his $412,000 annual salary until at least late May.
William Strampel, 70, was charged Tuesday with felony misconduct in office; criminal sexual misconduct in the fourth degree, a misdemeanor; and two misdemeanor counts of willful neglect of duty while overseeing Nassar.
Strampel is no longer serving in his administrative role at the university, but he will continue to draw a full paycheck while off campus on medical leave through late May, an MSU spokeswoman confirmed to Bridge Magazine.
As a tenured faculty member, Strampel cannot simply be fired, though he can be dismissed for cause following administrative procedures that can take months.
“The thought that the guy’s getting paid makes me sick to my stomach,” said Debra Nails, a professor of philosophy emerita who helped update MSU’s dismissal policy in 2015.
“But we can’t always follow our emotions. We have to follow our policies.”
Barring a resignation, MSU will shell out more than $68,000 in the next two months to Strampel, who allegedly groped two female medical students, sexually harassed others and neglected his duties as Nassar, the world-renown physician, sexually abused hundreds of female gymnasts and other athletes, according to the affidavit supporting the complaint from Special Independent Counsel Bill Forsyth.
Strampel would not lose his faculty status until two processes play out — an effort to revoke his tenure, and another to terminate his employment. Each started in February and can take six months to a year, MSU spokeswoman Emily Guerrant wrote in an email.
“Interim President (John) Engler is working expeditiously to move these processes through the system, as we no longer want Strampel associated with MSU,” Guerrant wrote.
MSU faculty members say the situation is unsettling but call tenure protections essential. Some highlighted policy updates that speed the process for removing tenured faculty found to have committed wrongdoing.
“A faculty member charged with a crime is entitled to due process in court, and his rights within the university also enjoy due process protections to prevent a hasty decision under the pressure of public opinion or administrative discomfort,” MSU law professor Mae Kuykendall, head of a local chapter of the American Association of University Professors, told Bridge in an email.
Strampel was dean of the college since 2002. He stepped down from the post in November 2017 at the request of MSU Provost June Youatt. He immediately went on medical leave, staying on faculty and continuing to draw a paycheck. The university has not detailed why he is on medical leave.
With scrutiny of Strampel’s conduct mounting, Engler kick-started dismissal proceedings on Feb. 9 by sending a letter to Youatt outlining Strampel’s “failure to monitor and enforce clinical practice guidelines” put in place to monitor Nassar following a 2014 sexual harassment investigation.
MSU’s faculty handbook outlines a process for dismissing a tenured faculty member for cause, and it includes various meetings, reports, hearings by a review panel.
William Strampel, former dean of Michigan State University's College of Osteopathic Medicine, was arraigned in East Lansing on Tuesday on charges including sexual assault. (mugshot courtesy of the Michigan Office of Attorney General)
Nail said Strampel’s removal could be even quicker . The recent policy overhaul, she said, sped up removal proceedings for faculty accused of misconduct, while still giving them due process.
Under the old policy, Nails said, faculty members accused of wrongdoing could delay removal proceedings for years by filing a lawsuit. The new policy clarifies that dismissal procedures can unfold even before any legal challenges are resolved.
“In every way it was possible for us, we changed the policy to keep people from spinning this out,” Nails said.
The current process allows the university to suspend faculty members posing “a significant risk of harm to persons or property” before they are formally dismissed, but the faculty member must still be paid during that time.
“Now that he’s been arrested and charged, I do hope that Governor Engler and Michigan State looks at this and decides not to pay him going forward,” said state Rep. Kim LaSata, R-Bainbridge Township, chairwoman of the House budget committee overseeing higher education. “We don’t want any mistakes to be made. We want it to be very methodical.”
Strampel could face up to five years in prison if convicted on the felony misconduct charge, and the up to two years for the sexual assault charge. The two willful neglect of duty charges carry maximum sentences of one year each. His attorney, John Dakmak, told reporters that Strampel denied many of the allegations and expected to prevail in court.
Judges have sentenced Nassar to hundreds of years in prison for sexually assaulting patients under the guise of medical treatment.