by Brian Garvey ’20
On Wednesday, January 19, Dr. Larry Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison on charges of criminal sexual conduct. A former USA Gymnastics team doctor and sports medicine physician at Michigan State University who treated stars such as Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, and Simone Biles, Nassar has been accused by over 150 women in court. Before her ruling, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina stated, “It is my honor and privilege to sentence you. You do not deserve to walk outside a prison ever again. You have done nothing to control those urges and anywhere you walk, destruction will occur to those most vulnerable.” Yet the guilt does not lie solely on Nassar.
USA gymnastics has been accused of neglect and attempt to cover up the abuse. In a report by the Indianapolis Star, approximately 360 cases spanning 20 years were uncovered in which athletes accused coaches of sexual misconduct. The entire board of USA Gymnastics has resigned, and three members of the USA Gymnastics Board of Directors have already stepped down, including chair Paul Parilla and vice chair Jay Binder.
Three-time Olympic gold-medalist Aly Raisman stated, “I’m so angry that, after realizing that we were abused, they let him continue to molest other gymnasts when they told me there was an investigation going on. They told me to be quiet. I thought that they were doing the right thing, and I didn’t want to tip off the investigation. I trusted them, and I shouldn’t have.”
Michigan State University, Nassar’s former employer, has also come under fire. Former athletes have come forward saying that MSU showed the same disregard for accusations as USA Gymnastics. ESPN interviewed four women who said they told MSU coaches or trainers about Nassar as far back as the 1990s. Two of those women said that they told Kathie Klages, MSU’s longtime gymnastics coach, about Nassar in 1997. Klages resigned in February.
Maddie Desnoyer, a sophomore student at Michigan State, said, “I think both the students and staff are feeling disappointed and embarrassed with the way that the administration handled this Larry Nassar scandal.” She went onto say that this situation makes her very upset knowing that something this terrible and disgusting has been going on for so long. “This trial is going to follow MSU for years to come in a very negative way and this isn’t the reputation I want my university to have,” she said.
MSU president Lou Anna Simon resigned hours after the sentencing, deflecting accusations. The popular MSU athletic director, Mark Hollis, retired the following Friday. The controversy has also spread to MSU’s most vaunted sports, with beloved head football coach Mike Dantonio accused of negligence, and Hall-of-Fame basketball coach Tom Izzo also accused of covering up incidents.
As a result, MSU’s campus has been in a state of uncertain turmoil, with much of the student body angry and demanding answers. Eryn Van Der Hoeven, another student at Michigan State, voiced the discontent that many students feel, saying, “I think students on campus feel let down. There’s a lot at stake for students to hear that administration doesn’t have their back in terrible situations.”
Students have been clamoring for updates and answers, and the school has been attempting to be as open as possible about the investigation. Emma Frame, another student at Michigan State, explained that the school has overall kept its students very updated on what’s been going on. “I have had most of my professor’s talk about it in the beginning of class, and express their feelings on everything,” she said. “I have also received many long emails on the topic of the trial, ex-president Simon, and the victims from multiple people.”
While Nassar’s fate is very much sealed, the future of Michigan State University remains unclear. The university could be facing serious legal trouble, as the U.S. Department of Education and the NCAA have opened a formal investigation into the university. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is embarking on a “full review” of the Nassar case as well.