Former Michigan State University Dean William Strampel was found guilty on Wednesday, June 12, 2019 of misconduct in office and two counts of willful neglect of duty. This conviction derives from Strampel’s failure to oversee convicted serial molester Larry Nassar as an orthopedic physician at Michigan State University. The charges come from Michigan Special Prosecutor William Forsyth’s investigation into Nassar abusing over 200 young girls and women over the span of multiple decades. Nassar pled guilty to charges of criminal sexual conduct and child pornography in February 2018 and was sentenced to 40 to 125 years in prison for sexual abuse within his professional capacities at both Michigan State University and with USA Gymnastics.
Strampel was Nassar’s boss during his tenure as dean from 2002 until 2018. In February 2018, Michigan State moved to revoke Strampel’s tenure, and he subsequently stepped down as dean in December 2018, citing health issues. However, Strampel avoided conviction of any sexual crimes stemming from the criminal complaint, which included detailed statements from four female students who accused Strampel of using his power as a dean to sexually abuse, harass, and solicit nude photos of them, according to court documents.
In total, nine women testified against Strampel in relation to his own charges of second- and fourth-degree sexual misconduct. Although he avoided such serious charges via acquittal, his misconduct and willful neglect of duty charges arose from him allowing Nassar to continue to see patients while under investigation for sexual misconduct in 2014. He also did not enforce stipulations including, but not limited to, requiring Nassar to have a chaperone in the room when examining women at Michigan State. Nassar continued to abuse women in his role at Michigan State until he was fired by the university in September 2016.
The verdict for Strampel conflicted victims and advocates involved in the misbehavior. While some victims expressed relief that he was held accountable for neglect involving Nassar, others, including some who testified, expressed their frustration that Strampel himself was not held accountable for his alleged instances of sexual misconduct. John Manley, a lawyer who represented Nassar victims in civil cases, speculated that the jury negotiated the various charges because of a “holdout.” However, he recognized the verdict as a historic instance of a university official being held accountable for enabling a sex offender, which has not happened since various Penn State officials were held criminally accountable following the rape and child sexual abuse convictions of disgraced former Defensive Coordinator Jerry Sandusky.
Michigan State spokeswoman Emily Guerrant issued a statement saying the verdict “reinforces the need for Michigan State to continue improving the climate for all faculty, staff and students.” However, Nicole Eastman, who testified against Strampel, stated that the accountability should not stop with Strampel. She called for the resignation of June Nuatt, a top academic advisor at Michigan State, after testimony and an article from the Detroit Press alleged that she knew about Strampel making inappropriate comments in public and toward students since 2005 and failed to address such concerns.
We will continue to monitor this matter as victims and advocates continue to demand further accountability from both Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics.