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Nessel: MSU board chair orchestrated plan to release Nassar documents, but didn't follow through

April 21, 2023
Chairperson Vassar speaking at the Board of Trustees Meeting held at the Hannah Administration Building on Apr. 21, 2023.
Chairperson Vassar speaking at the Board of Trustees Meeting held at the Hannah Administration Building on Apr. 21, 2023. —
Photo by Denille Reid | The State News

Michigan State University board chair Rema Vassar contacted the state’s attorney general to tell her she had the votes to release thousands of long-withheld documents relating to the university’s handling of disgraced ex-MSU doctor Larry Nassar.

Attorney General Dana Nessel told The State News that Vassar asked her to send the recent letter re-affirming the demand for the documents' release in hopes of reopening the investigation, and that it would be voted on at the meeting Friday.

But, when Vassar made her remarks, she announced that university would not waive attorney client privilege, and would further withhold the documents. 

Nessel said she has “literally no idea” why the board changed its mind.

“I think that would be a great question for (Vassar),” Nessel said.

Vassar did not return calls and text messages at the time of publication.

“They requested this letter and said they needed it by last Friday in order to be able to conduct a vote today,” Nessel said. “Then at the meeting today there’s not even a vote. It's bizarre. It's perplexing. I think it does a disservice to the survivor community as well as to the student body at Michigan State that, like us, has long awaited answers.”

Nessel said it “makes no sense whatsoever” that Vassar would ask her to send the letter if she was going to change her mind or not follow through.

At a press conference after the meeting, Vassar said the denial was intended to help survivors, arguing that it would be “retraumatizing” for them if the investigation resumed.

When asked if she’s heard such concerns from any survivors, Vassar said she hasn't, but that she can’t “speak to all survivors.” Survivor advocates called that argument a “betrayal” and “another strawman.”

Nessel also took issue with Vassar’s rhetoric, saying she was “stunned that (she) would say such a thing when this was her idea to begin with.”

“I don't understand the game playing when these are people's lives that we're talking about,” Nessel said.

Without the remaining documents, Nessel said she will not be able to re-open the investigation like she had hoped.

“Now there remains nothing left for us to do except, I guess, to apologize to all the survivors that this gave hope to during the last week,” Nessel said. “As much as I would like to say I hope the board will reconsider, I've said that so many times now that I don't have any realistic hope that that's going to happen, unfortunately.”

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