Advance Notice: Briefs

Survivors again ask MSU to release Nassar docs for independent investigation

By: - December 13, 2019 3:12 pm

Michigan State University | Susan J. Demas

Survivor Sterling Riethman addressed Michigan State University trustees at their Friday board meeting, once more renewing a call for MSU to stand down and not impede a state investigation into the university’s handling of the Larry Nassar crisis.

Riethman delivered part of the statement on behalf of fellow sexual assault survivors Rachael Denhollander and Sarah Klein. In the joint statement, they call for MSU to “find out what went wrong and acknowledge it.”

Survivors have, for months, asked the board to release 6,000 documents that could aide in an independent investigation into how Nassar’s crimes went unaddressed by the university for decades. Those documents are currently being withheld from law enforcement because MSU is citing attorney-client privilege, a legal term that allows for communications between an attorney and a client to be kept secret. 

An independent review agreed upon by some trustees — including Brian Mosallam, Kelly Tebay, Dan Kelly and former member Nancy Schlichting — never came to fruition after other trustees refused to move forward with it. Schlichting resigned from the board in October and cited the failed review as a reason.

“During the last year, though, it has become very clear to me that my commitment to have an independent review of the Nassar situation, and to waive privilege so the truth can come out, is not shared by the MSU Board chair [Dianne Byrum], legacy Board members, and some newer trustees,” Schlichting wrote in her resignation letter to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The survivors’ months-long attempts to work with the board to create an independent review are detailed in the joint statement, and Schlicting’s departure is mentioned. 

“When faced with a choice between transparency and change, you chose instead to attack us,” the statement reads. “To misrepresent our requests, and our work. In fact, you lost the most experienced and professional board member over this very issue. Nancy Schlichting served on more than 80 Boards, but she resigned from the MSU Board over your complete refusal to pursue transparency and accountability.”

The statement and concerned comments from additional survivors were delivered before Renee Knake, the board’s newest trustee. Knake, a law professor, author and ethics expert, was tapped by Whitmer to fill the board’s empty eighth seat after Schlichting’s departure. 

At Friday’s meeting — her first — Knake said she wanted to review the documents herself and then recommend if the board should take action. 

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C.J. Moore
C.J. Moore

C.J. Moore covers the environment and the Capitol. She previously worked at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland as a public affairs staff science writer. She also previously covered crop sustainability and coal pollution issues for Great Lakes Echo. In addition, she served as editor in chief at The State News and covered its academics and research beat. She is a journalism graduate student at Michigan State University.