Sun. Apr 14th, 2024

On Wednesday, Jan. 24, Judge Rosemary Aquilina sentenced Larry Nassar to 40 to 175 years in prison on seven sexual assault charges.

Nassar, formally a doctor employed at Michigan State University, MSU, and known as a prestigious doctor for gymnasts, was put behind bars for sexually assaulting hundreds of his patients. He treated and sexually assaulted many well-known USA gymnasts such as Simone Biles. The crimes that occurred in his “back room” for over 20 years have finally been put to rest.

Allegations against Nassar date back to the 1990s. He began working at MSU in 1997, and the USA gymnastics team only a few years before that. Multiple women spoke up about his behavior to other MSU employees, but allegations were dismissed or seen as a necessary part of treatment.

History repeated itself in 2014 when an MSU student made allegations about Nassar and the university implemented a Title IX investigation. Yet again, he was found not guilty of any crimes. However, in December of 2017 he was put on trial for child pornography cases. This trial lead to uncovering all of his sexual assaults and encouraged more and more women to come forward.

His second hearing, which began on Tuesday, Jan. 16, consisted of a total of 160 women who Nassar had sexually assaulted coming forward throughout the course of a week-long trial, giving statements. Recently, even more women have come forward, putting Nassar back in court for his third hearing. As of Feb. 1, 265 women have come forward and said Nassar sexually assaulted them.

The largest questions that have been brought to public discourse are, “How did this happen?” and “How did Nassar’s inappropriate actions occur for so long?” Many are pointing their fingers at MSU and USA Gymnastics, claiming they did not do enough.

“I’m absolutely appalled by the testimonies of the victims and even more appalled of how MSU dealt with them,” said Ryan Carlin, a senior kinesiology major at MSU.

Considering many of Nassar’s actions took place on a college campus, MSU’s sexual misconduct policy and the administrators’ actions in general are being questioned by many. The university is under investigation for the Nassar case along with additional allegations that have come to light.

Lynn M. Klingensmith, the Director of Social Equity/Title IX and ADA Coordinator at West Chester University, explained that it is her job to ensure that WCU is committed to maintaining social justice, equity, inclusion and diversity.

“Everyone’s deepest concern should be for all of the victims of this criminal act who courageously stepped forward to take legal action and seek justice. It is hoped that the verdict will help put an end to a tragic and senseless situation,” said Klingensmith.

Klingensmith, along with many other staff members, work to ensure the university is abiding by the sexual misconduct policy put in place.

“WCU takes seriously allegations of any form of sexual misconduct, including sexual assault and sexual harassment. Intimidation of victims and witnesses is not tolerated. WCU has a helpful and comprehensive website that outlines the protocol and steps involved in reporting and response to sexual misconduct, as well as the University’s Title IX services and resources,” Klingensmith said.

As MSU continues to face allegations and undergo investigations, they are actively working to appoint the correct leaders and take necessary steps in moving forward from this incident.

“Under Title IX, all public and private educational institutions that receive federal funds have an obligation to take immediate action and investigate all incidents of sexual misconduct. The legal system will make a determination about MSU’s response,” Klingensmith explained.

MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon, along with MSU Athletic Director Mark Hollis, both resigned immediately after Nassar was sentenced. John Engler, a former governor in the state of Michigan, has been appointed interim president. This caused even more conflict across the campus as students protested, claiming they should have had a say in who was appointed.

After reaching out to many staff members at MSU, no one has responded at this time. However, on Jan. 24, MSU spokesperson Jason Cody, released a public statement. In this statement Cody explained that Nassar’s actions were horrific and now that Nassar has officially been sentenced, MSU is focused on helping the victims heal.

One of the healing services available on WCU’s campus is the Center for Women and Gender Equity.

“The number one thing we promote is consent; always asking for consent no matter what it is and talking about what consent looks like,” said Madison Gharghoury a senior political science major and student staff member at the Center for Women and Gender Equity.

“Having a Center for Women and Gender Equity on a college campus gives people a safe place. It gives people a place to go to who need to talk. It is one of the four confidential resources on our campus,” Gharghoury added.

MSU and the state of the university are fragile at this point in time. They will have difficult times for years to come and the name Larry Nassar will have a continued association with the university. It was not too long ago that Penn State was undergoing the same situation.

For more information on WCU’s Sexual Misconduct Policy, visit the West Chester University website.

Mackenzie Haverdink is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies. ✉️

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