EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP/WOOD) — Michigan State University is authorizing what it says will be an independent investigation of the school’s handling of sexual assault complaints against now-imprisoned former sports doctor Larry Nassar.
The board of trustees unanimously approved the investigation Friday. It intends to hire Chicago-based law firm McDermott Will & Emery to investigate and release a public report.
The university has come under criticism for hiring a law firm to conduct an “independent” investigation while the same law firm also defended the school in civil lawsuits. No report has been made public.
The Michigan attorney general office’s has been investigating the university and has charged three officials, including a former president.
Trustees say they worked with Nassar victims in recent months to launch the new investigation “to restore trust in this university.”
However, in a statement released shortly after MSU’s vote, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said the university can’t be trusted to carry out such an investigation:
“Michigan State University lacks the credibility necessary to conduct a legitimate investigation. Over the past few years, it has launched several investigations including an ‘independent investigation’ conducted by Patrick Fitzgerald in 2016. Unsurprisingly, it has cleared its employees of culpability each time. There is only one way for MSU to regain the public’s trust and that is to waive its privilege and disclose all information in its possession about Larry Nassar to the Department of Attorney General. In other words, the University should leave the job of investigating to the professionals.”
On Twitter, Nassar survivor Rachael Denhollander defended MSU’s decision.
“I appreciate Atty @dananessel very much, but she was not involved in this process and does not know what has been negotiated.
“No one is backing off the push to waive privilege, but we need this. I have worked directly with the board, and I support this step.” she wrote.
Denhollander gave a detailed explanation of her stance on Facebook.
In a statement, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters said “it’s an important step in the healing process at MSU.”
“It is also another reminder that we must hold university leadership accountable. That’s why I reiterate my call to pass bipartisan legislation I’ve introduced to require university presidents to review reports of sexual abuse perpetrated by university employees. ‘I didn’t know’ simply can never be an excuse again.”