Nessel criticizes MSU trustees for reversing course on releasing Nassar documents

By: - April 25, 2023 1:11 pm

Michigan State University | Susan J. Demas

Despite new leadership and new members comprising the ever-embattled Michigan State University Board of Trustees, and a renewed request from Attorney General Dana Nessel, the eight-person panel appears still unable to budge on providing documents regarding disgraced former MSU doctor Larry Nassar.

The former USA Gymnastics and MSU doctor sexually abused more than 150 student athletes. In 2018, he was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison. Nessel has long sought to reopen an investigation into Nassar during his time at MSU with the help of over 6,000 documents still withheld by the university.

Transparency and trust issues have abounded for years within the Democratic-controlled board.

Nessel calls for new MSU board to turn over Nassar documents

According to the State News, Rema Vassar, a Democrat who began her tenure this year, signaled to Nessel recently that she would have the votes to release the documents on Friday if Nessel were to re-up her request for them.

Nessel did so, sending a letter to the board on April 14 reaffirming her demand for the full, unredacted release of all remaining documents pertaining to the department’s investigation of Nassar.

But the board did not hold a vote on Friday, and Vassar announced that MSU will not, in fact, be waiving attorney client privilege and will continue to withhold the documents. She then said that it would be “retraumatizing” for survivors if Nessel were to reopen the investigation.

The about-face has frustrated Nessel, who on Friday said that she is disappointed that the school continues to fail the survivors of Nassar’s abuse.

“It’s a disappointing outcome from the new board,” Nessel said. “With new leadership and new members, we expected more from the Board of Trustees, and hoped they were as dedicated to accountability and transparency for their student-victims as the Department of Attorney General continues to be.

“We have made a sincere plea to every iteration of this board, and we will keep up this fight for transparency at every opportunity. But the University that shielded Larry Nassar from justice and this new board who refused today to take the vote, still has something to prove to the people of Michigan, the current students they ought to protect, and the Nassar victims the school has failed for decades.”

Vassar did not return a request for comment.

POSSE (Parents of Sister Survivors Engage) released a statement indicating that they believe some board members waffled on the vote, leaving Vassar “to deliver their bad news.”

“We believe that the AG and the MSU board chair stand by our girls and the truth,” said Valerie von Frank, a founding member and leader of POSSE.

Nessel has said that she will be unable to reopen the investigation without the remaining documents from the university.

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins is a former Michigan Advance reporter. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service.