Monday, November 30, 2020

Facing crisis: A recap of the top stories from this semester

April 26, 2018
A sign rests on the ground after the MSU Rally for Resignations on April 20, 2018 at the Hannah Administration Building. The rally was organized by students and Nassar survivors to call for the resignation of the MSU Board of Trustees.
A sign rests on the ground after the MSU Rally for Resignations on April 20, 2018 at the Hannah Administration Building. The rally was organized by students and Nassar survivors to call for the resignation of the MSU Board of Trustees. —
Photo by Sylvia Jarrus | The State News

Next week, the class of 2018 crosses the stage to receive their diplomas. This semester has been the semester of shadows shifting, stories coming forward and the university being exposed under the watchful eye of the public. 

Here are the top stories from this semester.

January

During the Ingham County sentencing for ex-MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, 156 victims called the “sister survivors” gave their impact statements.

Among those who spoke was Amanda Thomashow, who filed a Title lX complaint back in 2014 after she was assaulted by Nassar during a medical exam. Her case was dismissed and former dean of the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine William Strampel gave the OK for Nassar to continue seeing patients during the investigation.

“Michigan State University, the school I loved and trusted, had the audacity to tell me that I did not understand the difference between sexual assault and a medical procedure,” Thomashow said in her statement. “That master manipulator took advantage of his title, he abused me, and when I found the strength to talk about what had happened I was ignored and my voice was silenced.”

Rachael Denhollander, who was the first to publicly come forward as a survivor of Nassar’s sexual abuse, was also the final victim to speak at the Ingham County sentencing. Once she initially came forward, hundreds of other survivors followed suit, giving rise to the collation of survivors, including individuals of all ages.

“This is what it looks like when institutions create a culture where a predator can flourish unafraid and unabated and this is what it looks like when people in authority refuse to listen, put friendships in front of the truth, fail to create or enforce proper policy and fail to hold enablers accountable,” Denhollander said in her statement. 

Nassar pleaded guilty to seven counts of criminal sexual conduct and was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison.

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Hours after Judge Rosemarie Aquilina told Nassar she had signed his death warrant on the last day of sentencing Jan. 24, Lou Anna K. Simon resigned from her position as MSU’s president.

Prior to the announcement, survivors, students, faculty, multiple newspapers, members of the Board of Trustees and other MSU community members demanded her resignation for allowing a serial predator to retain employment at MSU for years despite investigations and numerous claims of abuse during Nassar’s time at MSU.

Students planned a march named Students for the Resignation of Lou Anna K. Simon before the announcement led to a name change to the “March for Survivors and Change.” Students and faculty banded together to support survivors.

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February

On Jan. 31, the MSU Residence Halls Association unanimously voted no confidence in the Board of Trustees and Interim President John Engler, who entered the position earlier that day.

In a statement, Engler said the university’s main concern will always be survivors and he is only at MSU to lay a positive foundation for a permanent president.

“As the father of three daughters who just completed their undergraduate degrees, I put myself in the place of every parent who has sent their loved one to this great institution,” Engler said. “I understand the concern and uncertainty as well as the frustration and anger. To those parents, be assured that I will move forward as if my own daughters were on this campus and will treat every survivor and every student as I would my own daughters.”

February was marked with continued opposition to the board and interim president as well: Students called for honesty and clarity from the board during the March for Transparency Feb. 2, faculty from the College of Education marched with their list of demands to the Hannah Administration Building Feb. 6 and the Faculty Senate voted “no confidence” in the Board, 61- 4, on Feb. 13.

Nassar returned to court, this time in Eaton County Circuit Court, and for three days 65 victims were allowed to address the court. Following his two daughters’ statements recounting the abuse they suffered, father Randall Margraves lunged at Nassar and was restrained by police. Margraves had asked for five minutes alone with “that bastard” and was refused by Judge Janice Cunningham before he lunged at Nassar.

Nassar pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and was sentenced a maximum of 125 years and a minimum of 40 years in prison. He was sentenced on Feb. 5.

March

In a visit marked with controversy, white nationalist Richard Spencer was permitted to speak at the MSU Pavilion for Agriculture and Livestock Education March 5. Though the event happened during MSU’s spring break, many turned out to protest Spencer’s speech.

Among the slew of protesters, student Olivia Franklin held a sign saying “Feminazis against actual Nazis,” in resistance to the ideologies Spencer spreads.

“I wanted to come out here to show that just because the laws are protecting you at least a little bit, that we as a people — as a community — are going to fight back against your fascist ideologies and your racist and sexist ideologies and they are not welcome here,” Franklin said.

Throughout the day, 25 people were arrested on a menagerie of charges such as resisting and obstructing police, public urination, assault and battery and carrying a concealed weapon.

On March 26, Strampel was arrested and arraigned the next day on charges of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, a felony count of misconduct in office and two misdemeanors of willful neglect.

In the court affidavit, four alleged victims recounted how Strampel sexually harassed and assaulted them as students under intimidation with the power he held as dean.

Approximately 50 pornographic images, some of which are believed to be of MSU students because of their MSU apparel, were found on a computer from Strampel’s office during the execution of a search warrant. Special agent investigators from the Attorney General’s office also found pornographic videos, among which was a video of Nassar performing one of his “treatments” on a young female patient.

April

The three ex-MSU football players facing various charges of criminal sexual conduct for the alleged sexual assault and recording of an unclothed victim back in January 2017 took a plea agreement April 4 in Ingham County Court.

Demetric Vance, Donnie Corley and Joshua King all faced charges of third-degree criminal sexual conduct. King also faced one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. All of these charges were dismissed. All three men pleaded to the lesser charge of seduction.

Three former men's basketball players allegedly raped a woman after the team's Final Four run in 2015, according to a federal lawsuit filed April 9. The woman said the basketball players allegedly took her home from a bar and may have drugged her. She also alleged that when she went to MSU's Counseling Center, they warned her not to report it because of who was involved. 

MSU's attorneys refuted the claims, saying MSU took all the necessary steps to help someone with assault.

During the final Board of Trustees meeting of the school year, protesters erupted with shouts of frustration toward the board, survivors of Nassar’s abuse spoke and an accusation against Interim President Engler was made.

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Survivor Kaylee Lorincz accused Engler of meeting with her without her lawyer present to try and buy her out of her civil suit against the university. She said Engler told her he had a similar meeting with fellow survivor Denhollander and she had taken the settlement. Denhollander has since said she never met with Engler.

A survivor of Nassar’s sexual abuse, an advocate for victims of sexual assault and a freshman at the University of Michigan, Morgan McCaul has attended rallies and meetings at MSU. She said she has made the commute throughout this semester because she is not just a victim of Nassar’s abuse — she’s also a victim of MSU’s negligent policy.

“It’s really overwhelming and at this point sometimes I feel like it’s never going to end. I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone, but I feel an obligation to do this work because we have been given an opportunity to actually make change and to open a dialogue about what sexual assault looks like on campus,” McCaul said. “It’s important. It’s hard. It’s time consuming and it sometimes comes at great personal cost.”

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