Michigan State needs to step up, be accountable

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Former U.S.A. Gymnastics and Michigan State University sports doctor Larry Nassar will spend the rest of his life behind bars for his sexual assault of more than 150 Olympic and collegiate athletes.

The sentence came after 17 days of brave, powerful testimonies from 156 of Nassar’s victims. Even though his punishment has been dealt, his actions will leave scars on not only the survivors, but the organizations in which Nassar held positions of power.

There are many people at fault in this situation.

Many of the women who came forward claiming to have been abused by Nassar say they were pushed aside and ignored when they initially spoke out. U.S.A. Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic Council (USOC) and Michigan State University belittled its athletes’ claims for nearly two decades.

That means years of not following up on complaints, failed attempts to supervise Nassar and blatant ignorance of rejecting painful claims made by numerous athletes.

These organizations protected an abuser from the consequences he deserved, and ultimately failed their athletes whose well-being should be a top priority of university leadership.

Nassar’s time facing public ridicule may be over, but it is important we all continue to shed light on these organizations that enabled his disgusting actions.

When situations seem dark and unforgivable, hope can be found. In situations like this, these failures must be accepted and used to grow and improve the organization in the future. Something like this should never be overlooked again.

USOC CEO Scott Blackmun has since released an appropriate statement taking responsibility for failing to provide a safe community for their athletes.

“The purpose of this message is to tell all of Nassar’s victims and survivors, directly, how incredibly sorry we are,” Blackmun wrote. “We have said it in other contexts, but we have not been direct enough with you. We are sorry for the pain caused by this terrible man and sorry that you weren’t afforded a safe opportunity to pursue your sports dreams.”

It is undeniable that the root of this problem has yet to be brought to justice.

Michigan State’s president and athletic director has stepped down, but other authority figures have been defensive and in denial about sexual assaults being swept under the carpet like they were, according to the New York Daily News.

The university has continuously been out of touch on how to handle the mess they let so easily be ignored when the issues were most prominent.

Enablers are secondhand abusers.

MSU president Lou Anna K. Simon initially put out a callous apology for the effects of Nassar’s abuse on the victims from MSU.

“I am truly sorry for the abuse you suffered, the pain it caused and the pain it continues to cause today. I’m sorry a physician who called himself a Spartan so utterly betrayed your trust and everything this university stands for.”

Her apology was not authentic and had no culpability whatsoever. Her reply added more fuel to the fire burning in the demands of the public for her resignation. Simon resigned from her position of authority after Nassar’s final sentencing.

These issues go way beyond the legal implications MSU may face. Students are the heart of a university and never deserve to be treated as inhumanely as Nassar’s victims were. Their voice needs to be heard when it comes time to make decisions on the changes to come.

The fix begins with MSU accepting their failure and taking responsibility for enabling a predator like Nassar to do what he did. MSU’s leadership — whatever that looks like in the months ahead — must help others realize that the university is the heart of a community, beyond the confines of its campus.

Natalie Hilden is the Opinion Editor for The Collegian and can be reached at nhilden@sdsucollegian.com.

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