“THEY JUST didn’t listen.” So said one gymnast allegedly molested by Larry Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics doctor at the center of a sexual abuse scandal. Dr. Nassar also worked at Michigan State University — where multiple female athletes complained to officials about his so-called treatment, only to have the school shamelessly and shamefully ignore them.
USA Gymnastics has borne the brunt of the blame for Dr. Nassar’s alleged exploits. But, as reporting by The Post’s Will Hobson and the Lansing State Journal reveals, Michigan State shares responsibility for letting an alleged abuser reportedly carry on a decades-long criminal career. When athletes there told coaches and administrators that Dr. Nassar had massaged their buttocks and inserted his fingers, without gloves, into their vaginas, the officials told them they were misinterpreting the work of a medical superstar. A university Title IX investigation in 2014 cleared Dr. Nassar of wrongdoing.
Dr. Nassar worked with aspiring Olympians across the country, and a nationwide network of coaches and officials apparently let their athletes down again and again. But that bigger story should not obscure the appalling series of events that played out on Michigan State’s campus, for which the school has no excuse. Authorities say Dr. Nassar was brazen in his abuse, to the point where, as FBI agents discovered during their investigation, he allegedly recorded video of himself groping underage girls in a pool.
Michigan State is undergoing internal reviews to figure out what went so terribly wrong on its watch. That’s important, but equally important are structural reforms at Michigan State and colleges across the country to hold abusers accountable and prevent abuse from occurring in the first place. Michigan State’s shortcomings underscore the importance of the Education Department’s recent efforts to more carefully enforce Title IX, which governs how schools address sexual violence. Troublingly, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos would not commit to continuing those efforts in her confirmation hearing.
“I have been told it is virtually impossible to stop a determined sexual predator and pedophile, that they will go to incomprehensible lengths to keep what they do in the shadows,” Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon said at a meeting of trustees this month. But Dr. Nassar was not in the shadows. He and his behavior were on full display, for years, waiting for administrators to take action. They chose not to listen, and they chose not to see.