Nessel: MSU stonewalling Nassar probe cheats U of M victims out of justice

By: - March 5, 2020 3:46 pm

University of Michigan Law Quad | iStockphoto

The Michigan attorney general’s office will not open an investigation into reports of late University of Michigan Dr. Robert Anderson, due to the office’s experience with the Larry Nassar investigation at Michigan State University.

Several men have come forward saying Anderson sexually abused them while he was a doctor at U of M from 1968 to 2003. 

Attorney General Dana Nessel, March 5, 2020 | Anna Liz Nichols

Attorney General Dana Nessel said at a media roundtable Thursday that her office has learned its lesson from MSU “stonewalling” the investigation into school’s mishandling of Nassar’s sexual abuse of hundreds of patients. The university refuses to give investigators more than 6,000 documents, citing attorney-client privilege.

Unless U of M waives all privilege for an investigation, including attorney-client privilege Nessel said she won’t “waste taxpayer funds” or “give survivors a false hope of justice” by starting an investigation that could be stonewalled.

“These are actions that absolutely cannot be repeated,” Nessel said. “The young men and women at these colleges and universities are entitled to a safe learning environment. We achieve that when we start holding those in charge of their system, fully accountable.”

MSU reached out to the AG’s office in January 2018 asking for an investigation. Both the previous attorney general, Bill Schuette, and Nessel asked that MSU comply with the investigation it requested, but the MSU Board of Trustees has refused to release the documents.

Nessel said the MSU investigation was at a standstill in December 2019, adding that until the trustees comply, there’s not much else that can be done.

The Michigan Legislature appropriated $1 million to fund the Nassar investigation which has led to charges being filed for three high-ranking MSU officials: Former President Lou Anna K. Simon, former Dean of Osteopathic Medicine and Nassar’s boss William Strampel and former Gymnastics Coach Kathy Klages.

Funding would be a large issue in a possible U of M investigation. When the Nassar investigation began, the office’s Catholic Church Clergy Abuse investigation was not underway. The office would have to fund two large-scale investigations at the same time. The Legislature would have to appropriate more funds for a U of M investigation.

Nessel said these investigations are not simply about seeking accountability from institutions and holding individuals accountable. The goal is to find out how abuse has been allowed to happen and recommend policies and legislation to combat it.

Nessel said the reports of the allegations saddened her. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, an MSU graduate and rape survivor, has talked about her similar struggles with weighing school pride and the issue of rape-culture on college campuses.

“I think all of us look forward to the ability to have our kids come to these schools and be taught by some of the best professors and have the whole world really open to them,” Nessel said. “It breaks my heart to think that this would be going on at the University of Michigan and to think that some of it might have happened while I was a student there, it’s really upsetting.”

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Anna Liz Nichols
Anna Liz Nichols

Anna Liz Nichols covers government and statewide issues, including criminal justice, environmental issues, education and domestic and sexual violence. Anna is a former state government reporter for The Associated Press and most recently was a reporter for the Detroit News. Anna is a graduate of Michigan State University.