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U.S. Department of Education: MSU repeatedly violated the Clery Act

January 30, 2019

Photo of an MSUPD squad car taken in 2017.</p>

Photo of an MSUPD squad car taken in 2017.

Photo by Jon Famurewa | The State News

In a scathing report, the U.S. Department of Education found that Michigan State has regularly failed to meet its requirements to ensure campus safety and welfare.

According to a 46-page report obtained by Outside the Lines, MSU has consistently underreported crime statistics and did not disclose possible criminal threats to students.

The report cites "serious violations" of the Clery Act, a 1990 law requiring colleges and universities that participate in federal student aid programs to report safety concerns and crime statistics to the public.

"There is no way to truly 'correct' violations of these important campus safety and crime prevention laws once they occur," the report said.

Failures to report sex crimes are heavily documented in the report. For example, MSU's Sexual Assault Program did not mantain records of sex crime reports.

Reports made to the Dean of Students Office, while reasonably well-tracked on an individual basis according to the report, have not ensured disciplinary action for groups or teams with consistent problems.

Reports of Larry Nassar's abuse were subject to the same shortcomings within the university. Incidents from 2008 to 2016 that have not previously been made public are documented in the report. 

Eleven reports from survivors to campus security authorities who then failed to properly file reports are documented. Campus security authorities include head coaches, athletics team directors, resident advisors, the Vice President for Student Affairs and Services and faculty advisors to registered student organizations.

Four university employees — an associate director of athletics, an athletic trainer, a strength and conditioning coach and another university employee — took improper actions in reporting Nassar's abuse, the report found.

A female athlete told the unnamed strength and conditioning coach she had been assaulted by Nassar in 2016. The coach admitted in the report he had ignored his training and did not report to the MSU Police Department or the Title IX Office, instead telling an associate director of athletics.

The unnamed associate athletic director was found to have failed to properly report Nassar's sexual misconduct in 2016. To date, they are the most senior member of the athletic department reported to have held onto knowledge of Nassar's abuse.

The Department of Education describes the reports of Nassar's abuse over the course of two decades at MSU as an unquestionable threat to the campus community. The university would have been required to issue "timely warning" in the case of this ongoing threat.

Further failures in crime reporting include MSUPD's repeated failures to inform students of possible criminal activity and danger. The Clery report lists 21 burglaries or robberies between 2011 and 2016 where suspects were still at large or there was a pattern to the crimes. Students were not informed in these cases, according to the report.

The unnamed MSU employee in charge of Clery Act compliance was unaware of the number of campus security employees, according to the report. The employee said the university had not informed them of the responsibility of security employees to maintain Clery compliance.

The geographical coverage of the Clery Act was found to be unknown by some MSU employees, according to the report. Because of this confusion, some crimes have gone unreported. 

The Clery Act applies to locations on or adjacent to campus, as well as locations owned or mantained by the university or affiliated student organizations. The report cites at least eight crimes occurring adjacent to Greek housing that went unreported.

MSU could face financial penalties and other sanctions for their lack of compliance with the Clery Act. University officials have until Feb. 12 to respond to federal officials about the Clery report. 

Following the university's response, federal officials will issue a final report detailing any changes to the university's federal financial aid.

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