MSU’s worsening nightmare
In a way, the news that the longtime dean of Michigan State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine has been charged with criminal sexual conduct may be even worse than the revelations about Larry Nassar. MSU’s line all along has been that Nassar, the former sports medicine doctor who molested hundreds of women, was an anomaly.
The administration maintained that nobody knew what he was doing, let alone committing crimes themselves against women students. Former Dean William Strampel is, of course, entitled to a legal presumption of innocence.
But if the charges filed by special independent counsel Bill Forsyth are proven to be true, what was going on was far more monstrous than anyone imagined. Strampel’s computer was loaded with pornographic images, including what appear to be MSU students.
But there was also a video of Nassar performing his infamous “treatment” on a young woman. Was Strampel fully aware of what was going on? Did he know what Nassar was doing and revel in it? We don’t yet know.
What we do know is that instead of ending, MSU’s nightmare may be exploding. If the usual pattern holds, other women will now come forward to say they too were abused by Strampel. A recent story in the Wall Street Journal estimated Nassar’s crimes could cost MSU $500 million.
But what if there are a whole new set of victims?
And will parents be comfortable sending their daughters to any part of Michigan State? These new revelations show conclusively that former President Lou Anna Simon was an utter failure at making sure this school was a safe environment.
This should tarnish the reputation of Patrick Fitzgerald, the former tough federal prosecutor hired by MSU to conduct an internal review, and who reported back that nobody at the university had the slightest idea what Larry Nassar was up to.
And the new revelations make it very clear that Governor Rick Snyder should immediately remove all the members of the Michigan State University Board of Trustees.
For years, it has been an open secret that the board has been controlled by a faction led by developer Joel Ferguson, and their main, if not only, priority was to protect the athletic department and shield it from any criticism. They include some former athletes and George Perles, an octogenarian football coach who is Ferguson’s mini-me.
This board’s failure to exercise due diligence did more harm than can yet be calculated. The student who crashed a board meeting and told trustees that he now would have a degree from “Larry Nassar University” had a point. Detroit was financially bankrupt a few years ago, and it took drastic measures to fix that. Michigan State is morally bankrupt. If there were ever a time when the phrase “draining the swamp” was appropriate, this is it.
Interim President John Engler might consider naming something like an emergency manager with the power to ruthlessly do whatever it takes to clean this up, including getting rid of people and programs if needed.
Almost exactly a year ago, I quoted John Dean as saying during Watergate that there was a cancer close to the presidency that was growing daily. Neither Richard Nixon nor Lou Anna Simon listened, and their presidencies were destroyed.
Someone now needs to see that Michigan State isn’t destroyed as well.
Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio’s Senior Political Analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.