Engler, other MSU officials involved in potential lawsuit privacy violation
An April 11 university statement regarding a Title IX investigation filed against MSU and employees of the MSU Counseling Center for discouraging a woman from reporting a 2015 alleged rape by three members of the MSU's men's basketball team could have violated a federal privacy law and jeopardized funding to the university's counseling services.
Interim President John Engler, members of MSU's Communications and Brand Strategy, or CABS, and others shared information and edits via email to be included in the university’s official statement to a lawsuit filed against MSU and its counseling center.
The lawsuit accuses MSU's counseling staff of discouraging a student from reporting that she was raped by three unnamed MSU basketball players.
According to the emails, which were obtained by the Detroit Free Press, one includes a university spokeswoman saying they had to move quickly “to get materials the President wanted out the door.”
The statement refuted what is alleged in the lawsuit. According to the lawsuit, the alleged victim was raped in 2015 by three men's basketball players. She went to MSU's Counseling Center to report the rape to a counselor and to complete an initial assessment.
According to the lawsuit:
- The MSU Counseling Center staff told the student her options were to either file a police report or not file a police report.
- The Counseling Center staff told the student that filing a report would mean facing anxiety and unwanted media attention.
- The staff did not advise her to seek STD testing, pregnancy testing, a physical exam or medical treatment.
- The staff did not notify the student of her option to file a report with MSU's Title IX office, her Title IX rights, protections or accommodations. Instead, they referred her to the MSU Sexual Assault Program.
- The student was not made aware of her right to have a no-contact order put in place and was also not made aware of her Title IX rights, protections or accommodations by MSU's Sexual Assault Program, even though it's protocol.
The university statement refuting these allegations against MSU and its Counseling Center has since been removed from the CABS website, where university statements are posted. The statement was sent out to reporters on April 11, 2018.
According to a previous State News article that cited the original before it was removed, the university statement said "that appropriate care and relevant information for a rape victim was provided to the student. We have not found any evidence or indication that she was discouraged in any way to make a Title IX complaint or a complaint to the police department."
The statement said allegations in the lawsuit were untrue and denied the claims with information about the student's counseling center history, which could have violated the student's privacy.
Many of the emails obtained by the Detroit Free Press were redacted and blacked out, including people's email addresses, names and at times entire email exchanges.