Michigan State violates Clery act, fined $4.5 million

Gymnastics journalist Hannah Robbins covers the fines following MSU’s Clery violations related to Larry Nassar’s abuse scandal.

Even though Larry Nassar has been in prison since 2018, litigation and investigations related to his actions continue to work their way towards their conclusion. On Sept. 5 it was announced that the Department of Education was fining Michigan State University 4.5 million dollars for violations of the Clery Act. This fine, the largest in the history of the Clery Act, brings to light how important the Clery Act is.

The Clery Act is a law that most college students are aware of, even if they don’t realize it. Named for Jeanne Clery, a student who was raped and murdered at a university that had not been reporting crimes that had occurred, the Clery Act requires that a university that receives federal financial aid report must report violent crimes that occur at the university. In addition, any crime that represents a threat to students and staff must be communicated in a timely manner.

At the University of Tulsa, those warnings are usually distributed through emails. These emails are primarily related to sexual assaults, however was some pushback that alerts associated with several incidents of forced entry and sexual assaults in 2017 were only labeled as burglaries.

Michigan State University’s fine is in regards to failure to adequately respond to complaints of Larry Nassar’s sexual misconduct. The Clery Act violations are related to four issues of noncompliance.

First, Michigan State University has failed to disclose any of the issues of sexual misconduct associated with Nassar in their crime statistics. All of the 332 victims that Nassar assaulted were not included in the yearly crime report statistics that Michigan State put out. In particular, 10 different incidents are pointed out that should have been classified as forcible sexual offenses in reports. This drastically overinflated how safe prospective students thought MIchigan State was, possibly causing people to pick the university when they wouldn’t have if they had correct statistics.

In addition, the university failed to issue a timely warning related to Nassar’s abuse. There is no way to frame Nassar’s behavior that would not make his actions a threat to student and staff safety. Especially given the time frame, there should have been notification about what was occurring, especially to individuals using Michigan State’s sports medicine.

Finally, the Department of Education found that Michigan State failed to seek out individuals in charge of Clery statistics to inform them of these additions. There were found to be several omitted Clery incidents, including burglaries and larceny in addition to the sexual offenses.

Because of these violations, Michigan State University is required to hire a dedicated independent Clery officer to verify adequate reporting and create a Clery compliance committee to verify that the university adequately reports crimes.

This fine is less than one percent of the 500 million dollar settlement that the university reached with victims, which has prompted backlash. With a settlement that large, a fine that small truly shows how little the Department of Education cares. Rachel Denhollander, the first survivor to speak up about Nassar’s abuse, has a book out this week titled “What is a Little Girl Worth?” According to the Department of Education, not much.

Post Author: Hannah Robbins