Michigan State University to release Nassar documents after years of delay
- Michigan State University agreed to release internal documents related to the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal
- Nassar assault survivors have called for the the release of documents for years
- MSU leaders had previously blocked the release, citing attorney-client privilege
Michigan State University is poised to release documents related to convicted sexual abuser Larry Nassar, a former MSU medical doctor.
Members of the university’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously Friday to authorize the university's general counsel to release the documents to the state Attorney General’s office. The AG's office closed an investigation into MSU in 2021 following the university's refusal to share records, but Attorney General Dana Nessel renewed a call to release the documents earlier this year.
Nessel said in a statement Friday her office would “reopen and expedite” its investigation as soon as it receives the documents.
“The students, the MSU community at-large, and most importantly, the victims of Larry Nassar have long been owed this transparency,” Nessel said in a statement. “I am encouraged to see the MSU Board of Trustees finally make the right decision on a long-promised, and long-delayed, measure of transparency.”
Nassar survivors and their families have called for the university to release the documents for years. Some hailed Friday's announcement, but there remained skepticism about whether all relevant information would be turned over.
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Lizzie Maurer, a Nassar survivor, told Bridge Michigan that survivors are “really thankful” the Attorney General’s office will be investigating the documents.
“We really believe that us survivors in using our voice consistently the past five years and just never backing down, we really think that helped kind of never let this fight die,” Maurer said. “And they had to vote yes at some point and we finally made it to that point.”
University spokesperson Emily Gerkin Guerrant indicated to The Detroit News in an email Friday that the AG may not receive the complete text of the documents, citing student and medical privacy laws.
"There are FERPA, HIPAA and other considerations that need to be addressed before the documents are sent to the AG," Guerrant wrote, according to the News. "I don’t have a firm timeline to share, but it is a priority for the university to appropriately prepare the documents and send to the AG’s office."
Rachael Denhollander, a Nassar survivor, posted on social media that the board has not done enough to address concerns about sexual abuse. She called for the university to conduct a “comprehensive assessment” which focuses on “culture, policies and structure of MSU related to sexual assault.”
She added: “Document dumping on the AG is only a very small piece and unlikely to yield any answers for the breakdowns that did and still are, happening at MSU,” she posted.
It’s unclear if Nessel’s office will release the MSU documents to the general public. A spokesperson for the attorney general’s office did not immediately respond Friday afternoon to a request for comment.
The university’s incoming president, Kevin Guskiewicz, will start in March. Earlier this week, the State News, the student newspaper, reported that Guskiewicz said the documents did not come up during the search process or in conversations with MSU leaders.
But, he hinted at a possible solution before he formally becomes president.
“My understanding is that there are some things that will have been wrapped up by that time, so until then I will not comment on how I would respond or react,” Guskiewicz said.
Nassar was sentenced to decades in prison after being convicted of sexual assault and related charges in state and federal court. He was for years a sports doctor at MSU and USA Gymnastics.
The university agreed to a $500 million settlement in 2018 that included payments to 332 survivors and money set aside for a fund for any future claimants. Those who suffered from his abuse during sports physicals have alleged that their complaints about his actions were ignored or buried for years.
POSSE, Parents of Sister Survivors Engage, sued the university’s board this summer alleging board members violated the Open Meetings Act by holding a vote about the documents behind closed doors.
At the board’s October meeting, Trustee Dennis Denno called for a motion to release the documents and Chair Rema Vassar supported the motion but the motion was ruled invalid. Board bylaws require at least three board members to add a motion to the agenda.
Trustee Dan Kelly said then he was in support of releasing the documents but in a way that did not ambush people.
The resolution board members approved Friday includes a provision that the university administration develop and implement a “trauma-informed plan” to provide support and resources to those who are impacted by the release of the documents.
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