Nassar victims' fund to remain suspended, survivors and others express concern
The MSU Healing Assistance Fund, established in December to provide survivors of ex-MSU doctor Larry Nassar's sexual abuse with the resources needed for counseling and mental health services, has been suspended since July.
When the firm that managed the Healing Assistance Fund notified MSU that possible fraudulent claims were made, the university decided to suspend further payments to the fund in light of an investigation into these claims.
"Due to an investigation into fraudulent claims made to the Healing Assistance Fund, the university is suspending payments until the investigation is complete," the Healing Assistance Fund website currently says.
After three months, it's still under investigation. In an email from the MSU Police Department, the criminal investigation will continue for a "lengthy period of time," due to the complex nature of the fraud.
"We wanted to draw attention to the fact that the university isn't paying attention to survivors and they've stopped the Healing Assistance Fund," Anna Pegler-Gordon, a James Madison professor and a member of Reclaim MSU, said. "They haven't really explained fully why they've done that or why it is taking month and months and months to investigate these claims."
According to the Lansing State Journal, Interim President John Engler said it could remain frozen for three to four months and that "nearly half of the $1,159,106 distributed is believed to have gone out to individuals trying to defraud the university."
The fraudulent financial claims are in relation to "reimbursement by the fund and payouts for those claims," a statement from MSUPD Chief Jim Dunlap said.
Although Dunlap said none of these fraudulent claims have been made by Nassar survivors who filed civil or criminal complaints, Nassar survivors are still not able to receive counseling and mental health services from the fund.
"There is a connection between believing survivors in general and believing survivors in terms of restarting the Healing Assistance Fund," Pegler-Gordon said.
Messages like "Restart the Fund" and "Where is the $9 million for survivors" were written onto sheets and held up by protesters at the Board of Trustees meeting on Friday.
Signs are not permitted at board meetings, a change that was made earlier this year.
Pegler-Gordon and other members of Reclaim MSU were among the individuals holding the signs, as well as Valerie von Frank, the mother of a Nassar survivor, who said there needs to be more support from the university for survivors.
"So why can't they continue the support of (survivors) even as they're conducting an investigation?" Pegler-Gordon said.
Mosallam said the university is developing a request for proposals for a new fund administrator, and the current administrator, Commonwealth Mediation and Conciliation Inc., has been involved in this process.
"It’s been well-documented that there has been fraud,” Mosallam said.
MSU apologizes for any delay the suspension of the fund may cause survivors in getting support and help, a statement released by MSU Spokesperson Emily Guerrant said.
"There's lots of kinds of issues with insurance fraud and they can get settled very quickly," Pegler-Gordon said. "But the university doesn't seem to be making this a priority."