A group of students gathered to protest the Board of Trustees’ refusal to release thousands of documents detailing the university’s handling of disgraced ex-MSU doctor Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse cases.
By making this decision, the board chose not to comply with State Attorney General Dana Nessel’s request for the documents to be released. The controversial choice attracted criticism and confusion from members of the MSU community and survivor organizations.
One student, communications junior Charlotte Plotzke, said she planned the April 25 protest outside of the Hannah Administration Building because she did not believe the board’s decision was acceptable. She said by refusing to release the documents, the board was denying justice to the survivors.
During the protest, Plotzke held a sign that read “my tuition is not your hush money” and led students in chanting “silence is violence.” She used a megaphone to address people inside the building and passersby.
“Release the evidence,” Plotzke said into the megaphone. “We deserve that. This university is saying that it is okay for abusers to get away with doing horrible things, and that is not OK. We are here to stand against that. ... You need to take accountability for your own actions, and you need to serve justice, and you're either gonna serve justice or you're gonna resign because this student body does not tolerate this.”
Journalism junior Brandy Muz attended the protest. She said the university was silencing survivors, and in her time at MSU, she said the board had done this repeatedly. Because of this, she was not surprised by the board’s decision to not release the documents. However, she was still angry, which was why she decided to protest.
“I hope (protesting) just shows the Board of Trustees and everyone in this building that there are people who care … and that the victim's voices are important, even after all this time,” Muz said.
Biochemistry post-doc Sarah Percival said she was not surprised by the board’s decision. However, said she still felt there was no reason for the documents to continue to be withheld.
“I think it's unacceptable and it shows the university is not committed to any sort of changes,” Percival said. “I think that MSU, just in general, doesn't protect survivors, and I think that it still, on an institutional level, protects those that commit sexual abuses. I hope (protesting) sends a message that we know that MSU still is protecting abusers, and we're gonna still continue to hold them accountable.”
Environmental science and management senior Madeleine Tocco also attended the protest. The former Council for Students with Disabilities representative to the Associated Students of MSU said she was there to support survivors, especially because disabled people are disproportionately affected by sexual assault and have barriers when it comes to reporting, she said.
Tocco said she was not surprised by the board’s decision, but that students would “not take this without a fight.” She said the truth would come out eventually whether the board likes it or not.
Plotzke said the board’s decision was possibly an attempt to cover up third-party actions. She said the university is “still cowering in fear” and concerned more about money than survivors.
“There's still more justice that needs to be served,” Plotzke said. “Why do you think they're hiding these documents? Why do you think they're hiding them? There is more to the story. And those stories matter. Survivors, their stories matter … and this institution is showing us that they do not believe that, and that is unacceptable.”
Plotzke said she would not stop fighting the decision until the board holds itself to the same standards that students are held to and justice is served.
“We are not going to tolerate this,” Plotzke said. “We will be back. We are not going to stop showing up until you do something about it. … We will not let Michigan State University be the school that pushes domestic violence, sexual assault and sexual violence to the side. This is not okay. We are not okay with that.”