Michigan State University’s Larry Nassar Problem Manages To Get Much Worse

It seems impossible to fully fathom the depths of Larry Nassar’s abuse. He has now been identified as having abused more than 300 individuals at various institutions throughout the United States, including USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University. His abuse, which seemed to occur whenever an opportunity presented itself, was seemingly enabled at every almost every level by almost every person who encountered it.

There were outliers though. According to a lawsuit filed in a Michigan courtroom this morning, one of those outliers was Martha Ludwig, Michigan State University’s former field hockey coach. She was approached by one of her players, Erika Davis, who reported that Nassar had not only raped her but had also filmed the assault. An outraged Ludwig approached Nassar, demanding both to know what had happened and to receive a copy of the recorded assault. She was given the recording.

Ludwig’s outlier status ended up going badly. George Perles, then MSU’s Athletic Director (and the football coach), intervened on Nassar’s behalf, and all of the following things happened: Perles forced Ludwig to return the video, Perles forced Ludwig to resign, and Perles forced Ludwig to sign a non-disclosure agreement. If it seems worth asking what, exactly, Perles did to Nassar, given his treatment of Ludwig, the answer appears to have been absolutely nothing.

The story though gets worse.

  • In the aftermath of Perles intervention, Davis approached the Michigan State University Police Department, where she attempted to report the assault. She was told that the MSUPD had no jurisdiction over the athletic department and that any complaints needed to be taken instead to Perles.
  • When Davis explained that Perles had already dismissed the complaint, she was told that Perles was a powerful man, and that she needed to drop her complaints.
  • Davis, who reportedly became pregnant as a result of the assault (and who reports subsequently having had a miscarriage), had her scholarship taken away in the aftermath of the attempted report.
  • All of this happened in 1992.

If that last part seems like an outlier, that is because 1992 is two years earlier than most Nassar timelines begin, with his earliest abuse previously said to have begun in 1994, with the first reports of his abuse reaching officials overseeing his work in 1997. What this lawsuit alleges, in other words, is that officials knew of the threat Nassar posed in 1992, refused to do anything about it, and punished those who sought justice.

Surely though that is the end of the bad news? Nope!

Let’s start with MSU’s response to today’s lawsuit. MSU Spokeswoman Emily Guerrant insisted that, “While the protocols and procedures mentioned in this lawsuit do not reflect how sexual assault claims are handled at MSU, we are taking the allegations very seriously and looking into the situation.” Here is additional information about how sexual assault claims involving MSU are handled. Jim Dunlap, the MSUPD’s current Police Chief, asserted that the lawsuit’s claims were “nonsense” because there is no way that MSUPD would have refused to investigate claims just because they involved the institution’s Athletic Department. Here is additional information about how sexual assaults claims involving MSU’s Athletic Department are handled.

As for Perles, he retired in 1992, shortly after his interactions with Davis and Ludwig. But not one to go quietly, Perles has kept busy in retirement and is currently serving as a member of MSU’s Board of Trustees, a position he has held since 2007. He has been on the Board for the entirety of its attempts to address Nassar’s abuse. In early 2018, Perles and other Trustees apologized to Nassar’s victims, insisting the Board of Trustees would protect both victims and the institution and declared that the Trustees were “sorry for the trouble we’ve caused these poor women.” It is currently unclear whether Davis was one of the poor women mentioned.


Deadspin has additional details culled from the lawsuit itself. It is difficult reading.

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25 thoughts on “Michigan State University’s Larry Nassar Problem Manages To Get Much Worse

  1. If I was Michigan’s Governor I’d haul the university president into my office – it being a state school and all – and threaten to veto each and every appropriation of the legislature until the president cleans house, sues everyone who covered this up for defamation, and resigns. Then I’d make a very public statement about my threat and use every tool in my arsenal to put the screws to the university. I’d also order my attorney general to begin criminal investigations. and I look seriously at legislation to bring back tarring and feathering.


    • MSU’s president, John Engler, is a former governor, hired to stand in after Lou Anna Simon stepped down in the aftermath of the Nassar revelations. Activists have already repeatedly called for his resignation, owing to his abominable behavior since being hired, which has included accusing victims of being in it for profit, attempting to buy victim silence, and canceling an attempt to discuss Nassar’s crimes to instead celebrate, among other things, himself. His tarring and feathering can’t happen soon enough but honestly, he’s currently standing in line with a lot of folks.


      • he may be, but the lesson won’t get sent until University Presidents pay for the sins of their coaches and athletic departments. The resigned president probably didn’t forfeit her pension, or her access to university offices, or any of the other golden parachute provisions they generally have in their contracts. Ditto the football coaches – in nearly all cases they have to have their contracts bought out (to the tune of millions of dollars) if they are forced out over allegations like these.

        Just look at Ohio State – Urban Meyer is faced with credible accusations of covering up sever domestic violence by one of his key coaches. Yes, he’s been suspended, but that is just the cover for the negotiation about how much OSU will spend to buy out his contract.Once that’s done he will lie low for a couple of years and get hired again at another big name football school.


  2. It turns out that burying a tremendous crime and silencing people that try to do the right thing really don’t work out well. Its better not to be an activate participant in a criminal conspiracy.


          • I’d be happy, at this point, if police and prosecutors would just start seeking warrants and issuing subpoenas and all the other fun things they do when they believe a criminal conspiracy is afoot, because clearly that is what was happening at MSU. I mean, actual investigations and actual indictments.


            • I’d wish for the same thing, but it seems quite clear that plenty of older folks who have colossally fucked up in regards to taking abuse seriously still hold considerable sway over how abuse is handled now. This despite their utterly amoral approach to the issue.

              Our cultural imperative to be respectful of our elders – to assume that they know best – is one of the most spectacularly stupid ideas to ever take hold.


              • One of the many reasons I don’t respect my elders as a default. Once upon a time, someone living long enough to be an elder was someone who had figured out how to avoid or overcome the many ways to die, and maybe even succeed at life, and thus they were worth listening to.

                These days, living to old age is less of a feat and more of a given, thus the wisdom of age is inconsistent.


              • I don’t think they hold sway because they are “elders.” They hold sway because they can use the levers of their own wealth and the University to insulate themselves from the legal ramifications of their actions. A university president has the universities lawyers (to say nothing of the legion of well paid lawyers who are contributing alumnae). DItto the Football Coach and Athletic Director. A female student has . . . not much unless she is from a well to do family, and even then the best she can hope for is a generous 6 or 7 figure settlement offer to make it all go away.

                This is a business transaction to these folks first and foremost.


  3. The other piece of this is that MSU – like so many Division 1 schools – has a revenue generating football program to protect, or so they think. I can’t speak to the particulars of their funding allocation, but my well informed guess is their football coach makes more money then their president. Just like any corporation, paying for silence regarding sexual and domestic violence is “cost of doing business” so the revenue stream can be protected.

    Sadly that alone augers for few if any prosecutions, and it likely means that the lawsuits will be settled (albeit for probably larger then anticipated sums). most of those committing the actual acts – particularly the players – are long gone from campus, and Nassar has been charged, found guilty and sentenced. and since we no longer (socially) accept institutional responsibility for social conditions (its why we keep reelecting our Congressperson while decrying the dysfunction of Congress) I see no realistic way the MSU community will be held to account for aiding and abetting.


    • Honestly surprised I haven’t seen calls for people to boycott MSU football. But maybe that’s coming. (Or maybe the football fans aren’t into boycotts. I am not convinced of their efficacy myself, but it does seem these days like everybody is boycotting everything, so).

      I am guessing a great many college (or college-affiliated, which I guess Nassar and his crew really were) sports, upon close examination, would be found not to be covered in glory.


      • Oh football fans are into boycotts if they hurt players of color who get too uppity – just look at the backlash to the Kapernick Nike ad. The real long term test for the university will be what the athletic booster foundation and the alumnae foundation report in terms of giving. If those are hit by this, then more heads will roll.


      • I think Burt got this right when discussing it a while ago. The professionals and NCAA know fans like the sports too much to quit. Even the fans who know all of this is bad.

        I’m not a sports guy. So it is easy for me to call for a boycott. But even on much more left-wing LGM, they still have open threads for professional and college sports because lots of people think watching.


      • It’s important to remember that many of the biggest fans of the big public/state university college football/basketball programs….never actually went to the school. So, they have no connection to the school itself, they only care about the football program, and whether it wins or loses and nothing else.


    • I’m totally going to hijack this tread…

      (it’s why we keep reelecting our Congressperson while decrying the dysfunction of Congress)

      My Congressperson run unopposed in the primaries (believe me, I would have voted against her). The option to vote against her in the general, and for the Other Candidate, is to horrible to even think about. Responsible voters in America are trapped in a Prisoner’s Dilemma not seen since The Prisoner itself (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Prisoner)


      • Whenever I talk about how we need more viable political parties and we need to break the duopoly the D’s & R’s have created for themselves, I’m told I’m being silly.

        But this is the problem, the fact that the parties are more interested in protecting incumbents, even horrible ones, than they are in getting good people in place. They have no incentive to do otherwise, and IMHO, the only way to create that incentive is to give voters more than two options.


  4. Why do so many institutions need to burn to the ground?

    Are Americans more prone to doubling down? Is there something about the American way that makes this more successful than not?


    • There BBC took an active role in making sure that the British public never learned that Jimmy Seville was a child rapist. You also have the Roman Catholic Church. Organizations want to exist in perpetuity and will do a lot to protect their organization even if it is actively immoral.


    • Do we need to burn MSU down and literally salt the earth where it stood? No.

      Should the leadership of the university and the academic departments expect to be fired if there was even a hint that they obstructed an investigation into Nasser? Oh yeah.


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