Over 75 members from the Michigan State women’s rowing team – along with supporters from the men’s crew team and women’s cross country and track teams – met with the Michigan State University Board of Trustees regarding Larry Nassar, who served as the rowing team’s doctor, as well as a USA Gymnastics doctor. Nassar abused 265 girls and was recently sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison after several women testified against him in court.
Congress passed legislation on Monday which requires governing bodies for ameteur athletics to report abuse claims to law enforcement. Four representatives from the board talked with these women for over 50 minutes during this unprecedented meeting, according to Detroit News. These athletes asked the university to suspend employees under criminal investigation, improve communications with abuse victims, and ensure students have chaperones during medical treatment.
Although some students did not personally face abuse, they know teammates who did and believe Nassar should not have stayed employed during this time.
“Many women, including myself, were patients of his,” said Nicole Marek, a senior member of the team who told reporters she was not personally assaulted. “We have teammates who are victims of his abuse, and it’s not right he was employed at that time.”
Marek explained how the university did not answer some questions, yet this meeting started crucial dialogues about athletes’ safety, ways the university can change its culture, and expectations for a zero-tolerance policy for all students.
On Twitter, alumna Emily Regan posted a picture of the expectations they proposed regarding investigation questions, communication, justice, patient-doctor guidelines, and staff training and resources.
— Emily Regan (@EmilyRegan1) January 28, 2018
“Michigan State University needs to improve and post proper protocols, accountabilities, and patient rights in doctors offices to ensure the safety of all student-athletes and students,” one of the statements read.
Regan also previously released a statement regarding her disappointment in the university’s failure to handle sexual misconduct properly as well as accept blame for its mistakes.
“The administrators at MSU have failed just as badly as USA gymnastics. MSU is hiding behind the higher profile stories of the National team gymnasts,” the statement says.
However, the Board did accept blame in a recent press release, which explained how the Board did not focus enough on the victims and hopes that they can continue conversing with victims so they can reach a fair solution. This press release also stated a couple of the Board’s recent actions: bringing in a third-party to perform a top-to-bottom review of all processes relating to health and safety, as well as provide recommendations to help change the MSU culture; asking the Attorney General’s office to conduct a review about the Nassar situation; and appointing an independent third-party to promote bipartisan acceptance of results.
“We cannot change the past, but we can and will devote our time and resources to foster healing and move forward together,” the release said.
The Board explained how the university may hold a series of town halls or public forums to help change the culture, trustee Dianne Byrum said. She noted how change requires a large community effort.
“It’s going to take all of us,” said Byrum. “It’s not going to be one stakeholder or one college. It’s not going to be one set of policies. It’s going to be everyone traveling along this journey together.”
The Board has followed through with this promise, hosting a moderated discussion forum, which took place on February 1st at the Kellogg Center. This forum used small and large group conversations to engage attendees’ feedback for the Board and help change the campus climate.
The university additionally acknowledged victims on Twitter and pledged to make the campus a safe place for students.
“We hear you. We see you. We are sorry for your pain and grief,” a tweet said. “We commend you for your bravery and strength. We are committed to making MSU a safe and inclusive community for all.”
Thanks to these student athletes, the MSU Board of Trustees understands it must develop stricter policies and make university-wide changes to ensure students’ safety. These new policies will not change the past and cannot take away victims’ pain, but they can prevent future instances of sexual misconduct and make MSU a safe school.
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