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MSU Deans: Academic culture enables abusers like Larry Nassar

michigan state university sign
Branislav Ondrasik
Wikimedia Commons / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A recent editorial in Inside Higher Ed called on academia to “confront the power dynamics that can make academia a haven for predatory behavior and abuse.”

It was jointly signed by eight deans at Michigan State University, a school rocked by the conviction of Larry Nassar. The former sports doctor and MSU employee abused hundreds of girls and women under the guise of treatment.

The abuse went on for more than two decades. During that time, staff and administrators at MSU repeatedly did not take action on complaints filed by Nassar’s patients dating as far back as 1997.

Cheryl Sisk is interim dean for the MSU College of Natural Sciences. Christopher Long is dean of the College of Arts and Letters. They were two of the faculty who signed the Inside Higher Ed piece. They joined Stateside’s Lester Graham to talk about how the culture of academia enabled Nassar’s crimes.

Long said that sometimes a university’s metrics of success can undermine its mission to serve students.  

“So often we are in higher education, and I think in other industries as well, driven by certain metrics of success. And often that causes us to lose sight of the core values that drive us as institutions,” said Long.

Those metrics include college rankings and research funding, which can make universities wary of negative publicity. Sisk says that moving forward requires the university to grapple with the consequences. The university cannot just put Nassar’s abuse behind them.  

“Just watching the courage and the determination of those girls and women who did just have the courage and the guts to come forward and tell their stories, that was so overwhelming and influential. There is no way I’m putting that in my rear view mirror,” said Sisk.

Listen above to hear about the structures in academia that Sisk and Long say enable bad behavior, and what they say is necessary to fix the culture.

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