By Professor Doom
2017 was the year of the publicized sex scandal. Granted, the phrase “casting couch” didn’t come from nowhere, it’s been long known that in Hollywood an actress might well have to advance her career on a couch.
Other “obvious” places where sexual shenanigans occurred didn’t seem to get nearly as much attention. Perhaps I just have a cynical mind, but I sometimes wondered when I’d see some 10 year gymnast girl rushing to hug her bloated, 50-something male trainer after another bouncing performance: why exactly did the coach decide to spend all his time around prepubescent girl gymnasts? To judge by his physique, he clearly was never a gymnast himself, after all, so it can’t for much love of gymnastics…so it must be the girls, right? Similarly, some of the support staff here, in this case the team doctor, lead me to wonder a bit what they’re doing there.
There have been, of course, a few gymnastics sex scandals, but they don’t seem to get much coverage. Perhaps there were just so many sex scandals last year that it’s hard to cover them all in detail, I’ll grant that, but a recent scandal at Michigan State has caused the downfall of their leader:
I’m going to give the president here some tentative props, because so far there’s been no talk of issuing a golden parachute. She’s basically falling on her sword over this scandal, taking the personal blame for a long running pattern of abuse in their gymnastics:
Simon said she had planned to retire in 2016, but postponed her departure after learning of allegations about Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November to sexual assault. In a statement released Wednesday night, she spoke directly to survivors, who have challenged her in harrowing testimony in recent days.
Again, this is quite honorable. She was about to retire, but decided to hang on and take the heat for an additional year, in an attempt to do something about this scandal. This is how a legitimate steward of an institution of higher education should act: don’t leave a mess when you leave. Considering how often I’ve seen Poo Bahs abandon schools in huge financial distress or otherwise in dire straits, I commend her resolve, and can accept that at some point you must pass the torch no matter how much it’s sputtering.
"We agree with Dr. Simon that it is now time for change," Breslin said. "President Simon has served with distinction as MSU's president for 13 years and has been a constant presence at the university for more than 40 years. She literally has devoted her entire professional life to this institution,…
I apologize if I’m gushing overmuch here, but I really want to point out that the above is what the leaders in high education used to commonly be like: people who dedicated their lives to the institution. Now our administrators are typically people who spend 5 years or less at each place they go, plundering and looting as best they can before moving on and up in the system. “Must have spent at least a decade here” should be a requirement for hiring into an administrative position at a school; if we used that as a requirement today, we’d lose some 95% of our administrators on campus (and, truth be told, if we did lose that many, our institutions would probably run just as well).
Enough praise for the president’s attempt to deal with this nightmare…let’s talk about the nightmare:
Nassar was sentenced after more than 150 women testified about sexual abuse they had suffered in a period spanning two decades.
The short discussion is the team doctor was using his position to sexually molest the young girls under his care…and we’re talking well past 100 such girls. He obviously didn’t do it overnight, and this leads to how fingers were pointed at the university:
Women have said they complained to Michigan State athletics officials as early as 1997. In 2014, Nassar was cleared in an investigation by the school after a woman alleged he assaulted her.
As I’ve said before, quirks in our laws allow universities to investigate even pretty serious alleged crimes on campus. Because admin controls the entirety of the investigations, it’s fairly easy for extraordinarily criminal activity to simply be ignored. The above hints at 17 years of complaints…one would hope that the 2014 investigation wasn’t the first time those complaints were looked at.
Attorneys for Michigan State have said Nassar's sexual abuse was invidious in form, difficult to detect, and that university officials did not mishandle prior complaints.
I grimly laugh at the above: Michigan State investigated itself, and cleared itself of wrongdoing in its investigative practices. I’m shocked, shocked, at this. I’ve certainly seen this sort of idiocy enough times, but I really want to hammer down the conflict of interest here. They say they didn’t “mishandle” the investigation, but the gentle reader needs to understand Michigan State gets to define what “mishandling” is. Whatever Michigan State did in response to a crying little girl saying she was raped, including slapping the girl in the face and throwing her out of the Dean’s office, will, by definition, be considered proper handling of the complaint.
So, yeah, I can see why some might not be convinced that the investigation of these complaints might not have been as diligent as one might hope…especially when these types of complaints must have been fairly regular (over 150 girls say it happened, after all…), over nearly 20 years.
Was the president involved in the cover-up here? It’s hard to say, but seeing as the complaints started over 5 years before she became president, it’s quite possible the entire cover-up infrastructure was built before she arrived in office…through long experience of other administrators involved, those little girls could easily have been silenced long before what they were saying made it to the president’s office.
Allow me to clarify the obvious implications of the above: in order for about 20 years of complaints to have been silenced, an entire infrastructure of conspirators must have formed, working together. I again point out most administrators don’t spend even 5 years in one position…lots of people must have been involved in covering this up, and the conspiracy spread through generations of administrative bureaucracy.
And yet, only the president is losing her job over this…and only because she resigned. Ok, yeah, I guess the doctor lost his job, too but I promise, promise, promise the gentle reader: there was a whole corrupt infrastructure here, and while I respect the president’s actions, if the next president coming in doesn’t vow to root out all the other conspirators, I have another promise to make:
It will happen again, and probably take another 20 years before the scandal becomes public.