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Board of Trustees announces independent investigation into MSU's handling of Nassar's abuse

June 21, 2019
Trustee Dianne Byrum speaks during a press conference at the Hannah Administration Building on June 21, 2019.
Trustee Dianne Byrum speaks during a press conference at the Hannah Administration Building on June 21, 2019. —
Photo by Matt Zubik | The State News

The Michigan State Board of Trustees announced Friday morning at a board meeting that the McDermott Will & Emery law firm will conduct an independent investigation into the university's handling of reports against Larry Nassar's sexual abuse.

Rachael Denhollander, Sterling Riechman and Sarah Klein — survivors of Nassar's abuse — consulted the board on the selection of the firm to conduct the investigation.

“Each survivor is unique and it’s our goal to have fair settlements with each and every one," Trustee Dianne Byrum said.

The survivors were involved in a subcommittee of the Audit, Risk and Compliance committee. They attended meetings and conference calls and aided in the firm selection process by helping conduct interviews.

The Board of Trustees are still working on the time frame and the budget of the investigation.

The trustees said they hope to have input from the three survivors who were involved in the process. The three survivors are from the first-wave of Nassar survivors.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel released a statement Friday that said MSU "lacks the credibility necessary to conduct a legitimate investigation."

"Over the past few years, (MSU) has launched several investigations including an ‘independent investigation’ conducted by Patrick Fitzgerald in 2016. Unsurprisingly, it has cleared its employees of culpability each time," Nessel said in the statement.

Nessel said the only way for MSU to regain the public's trust is to waive its attorney-client privilege and disclose all information — including the thousands of documents it has refused to turn over — about Nassar to the Department of Attorney General.

"In other words, the University should leave the job of investigating to the professionals," she said.

This newly-announced independent investigation will look at MSU's handling of claims against Nassar and will also look at the way the university currently handles sexual assault reports on campus.

When asked how this investigation is different to the other investigations that are already underway at MSU, Byrum said, “In those settlement agreements, they will identify policies and procedures oversight accountability that we will, as a university, need to implement it’s an ongoing process. This independent report is going to answer the question: What happened?”

The firm will not have access to privileged information, but will have full access to factual information, Trustee Dan Kelly said.

“This firm will have full access to all of the facts, the documents,” Kelly said. “They’ll arrive at their own opinion. They, quite frankly, don’t need the privileged information to do what were asking them to do.”

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