Fall 2018: A semester in review
It has been a year of challenges for Michigan State University. With finals week approaching, here are some of the top headlines from this semester.
The NCAA cleared MSU of wrongdoing in investigations into the university’s handling of ex-MSU doctor Larry Nassar and alleged misconduct by MSU student athletes in the men’s basketball and football programs.
After the Nassar case rocked the university this past spring, Michigan State welcomed its largest and most diverse class in the university’s 163-year history this fall.
Provost June Youatt said during the Aug. 31 Board of Trustees meeting the class consists of 8,400 students, 26.3 percent being students of color. The median GPA of these students is 3.77, making it the “best prepared” class in MSU’s history, Youatt said.
Former MSU gymnastic coach Kathie Klages was arraigned Aug. 30 on two charges of lying to a peace officer during the Attorney General’s investigation into Nassar.
On Sept. 27, Klages’ case went onto the trial stage of legal proceedings.
The decision to send the case to Ingham County Circuit Court came after 54-A District Court Judge Louise Alderson reviewed testimony from three witnesses and a transcript of an interview with Klages conducted by the Attorney General’s office.
Klages faces one misdemeanor charge and one felony charge. The misdemeanor carries up to two years of imprisonment or a fine of up to $5,000. The felony entails up to four years in prison or a fine of up to $5,000.
Michigan State’s search for a new president began with input sessions conducted from Sept. 17 until Oct. 11.
In a statement from Trustees Dianne Byrum and Melanie Foster, the co-chairs of the presidential search committee, the year-long process is referred to as “the next chapter in our history.”
The first phase, a month-long process of listening to the community at input sessions, is over — but there are eight months left of work to do before the search ends.
A total of 19 people make up the presidential search committee, including one undergraduate student, one graduate student and half of the Board of Trustees.
It was announced Nov. 28 that the rest of the search will be closed to the public.
A new president will be announced in June 2019.
The University Interfraternity Council (IFC) voted unanimously Oct. 10 to liquor with 15 percent or more alcohol by volume, at fraternity events. IFC represents over 25 fraternities on campus.
In a press release, the council said eliminating hard alcohol from fraternity events marks a step in a new direction for MSU’s Greek Life.
“We look forward to a bright future in which both our members and guests foster a safer environment for everyone,” the release said.
The MSU Healing Assistance Fund, set up to help survivors of the Nassar scandal with resources and counseling, was suspended in July and was still under investigation in October. The fund was suspended because of an investigation into fraudulent claims, the university said.
An email released by the MSU Police Department said the investigation would continue for a “lengthy period of time” because of the complex nature of the fraud.
“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.
Dunlap said the fraudulent claims were not made by Nassar survivors who filed civil or criminal complaints, but they were still unable to receive counseling and mental health services from the fund.
“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,” said Anna Pegler-Gordon, a James Madison professor and a member of Reclaim MSU. “They haven’t really explained fully why they’ve done that or why it is taking months and months and months to investigate these claims.”
During the Board of Trustees meeting on Oct. 26, sheets with messages of protest were held up, including phrases like “Believe Survivors” and “Restart the Fund.” Pegler-Gordon was among the peaceful protesters against the decision to suspend the fund.
“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.”
MSU Spokesperson Emily Guerrant released a statement saying, “MSU apologizes for any delay the suspension of the fund may cause survivors in getting support and help.”
The Nov. 6 midterm election was the first major election in which many MSU students could participate. This election included the Michigan gubernatorial race, an open U.S. Senate seat and more than 140 open seats in Michigan’s House of Representatives.
Social work Sophomore Sue Nguyen was one of many MSU students to fill out an absentee ballot. Her classes conflicted with plans to commute back to her hometown of Grand Rapids in order to cast an in-person ballot.
“It’s a way for college students to use their voices,” Nguyen said. “Usually college students, they’re really low on the voting scale, it’s a good way for us to get up there.”
With polling locations located around campus, students registered in East Lansing were able to vote between classes.
Democrat Gretchen Whitmer was elected the 49th Governor of Michigan, defeating Republican Bill Schuette with 53.1 percent of the vote.
“At a time where we see too many people who want to divide us through building walls, I think we in Michigan need to get back to building bridges,” Whitmer said during a victory speech at her watch party at the Motor City Casino in Detroit.
Incumbent U.S. Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow won re-election, defeating Republican challenger John James with 52 percent of the vote. Stabenow will serve a fourth consecutive term as a senator.
The 8th Congressional District, a traditionally red district, was flipped with Democrat Elissa Slotkin’s defeat of incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop. Slotkin received 66.61 percent of Ingham County’s vote.
Brianna Scott and Kelly Tebay were elected the MSU Board of Trustees. Scott received 24 percent of the vote while Tebay received 23.5 percent.
Former MSU football player Auston Robertson pleaded guilty to one count of third degree criminal sexual conduct on Nov. 7.
On Nov. 7, a motion to dismiss criminal charges against former MSU Dean of Osteopathic Medicine William Strampel was denied.
Strampel’s charges include a count of felony misconduct in office, a count of fourth-degree sexual assault and two counts of willful neglect of duty.
Judge Joyce Draganchuk denied the motion to dismiss the case because she determined there was enough evidence to name him as a probable cause of the crimes he allegedly committed.
On Nov. 20, former MSU president Lou Anna K. Simon was charged with two counts of lying to a peace officer about a federal crime and two counts of lying to a peace officer in a four-year or more federal crime investigation.
Simon said she was unaware of “the nature of the complaint” against Nassar that sparked the 2014 Title IX investigation. She also implied that she did not know Nassar was the subject of the 2014 investigation by providing a misleading statement to investigators.
“I was aware that in 2014 there was a sports medicine doc who was subject to a review,” Simon said, according to the charges.
For each statement, Simon was charged with a felony, which carries a four year sentence, and a misdemeanor, which carries a two year sentence. Each charge carries the possibility of a $5,000 fine.
Simon was arraigned Nov. 26. She was released on a $5,000 personal recognizance bond and was required to hand over her passport. Her next court date will be t 2:30 p.m. Dec. 18.
On Nov. 28, MSU announced Trustee George Perles’ resignation due to health issues.
Perles was elected to the Board as a Democrat in 2007 and won re-election in 2014.
According to the press release, Governor Rick Snyder will appoint a new member in the near future. He will not seek student input.
Former MSU assistant professor, Joy Lisi Rankin, published an essay Nov. 28, alleging both sexual and online harassment from a Lyman Briggs associate dean.
On Dec. 3, Rob LaDuca, associate dean of Lyman Briggs, was confirmed to be the unnamed alleged harasser Rankin describes in her essay.
LaDuca was cleared by an Office of Institutional Equity investigation in summer 2017 and is still employed by the university.
On Dec. 3, ASMSU President Katherine Rifiotis announced she would take a leave of absence for the rest of the semester.
ASMSU has not disclosed the details of her return.
On Dec. 4, Interim President John Engler announced that the Healing and Assistance Fund would be discontinued.
Nassar survivors will not receive payments from the fund and all future payments will come from the $500 million settlement.
On Dec. 5, Robertson was sentenced to 43 to 120 months in jail for one count of assault with intent to commit criminal sexual penetration. He must also register as a sex offender.