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Betsy DeVos Watch: Fake Sympathy from DeVos on MSU victims, while undermining the existing Title IX protections against sexual assault

January 28, 2018

After dozens of testimonies and a trial that lasted several weeks, USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor Larry Nassar was finally sentenced and will most likely spend the rest of his life in prison.

However, there is growing scrutiny of what MSU officials and anyone in a position of power at MSU, who could have done something, and didn’t. Those who did nothing or worse, enabled the abuse, include campus police, MSU officials and possibly the MSU football and basketball programs.

According to a recent investigation by ESPN’s Outside the Lines, it seems pretty clear that the complicity in allowing abusers to either get away with violence or to be let off the hook with minor consequences.

According to the ESPN report:

Over the past three years, MSU has three times fought in court — unsuccessfully — to withhold names of athletes in campus police records. The school also has deleted so much information from some incident reports that they were nearly unreadable. In circumstances in which administrators have commissioned internal examinations to review how they have handled certain sexual violence complaints, officials have been selective in releasing information publicly. In one case, a university-hired outside investigator claimed to have not even generated a written report at the conclusion of his work. And attorneys who have represented accusers and the accused agree on this: University officials have not always been transparent, and often put the school’s reputation above the need to give fair treatment to those reporting sexual violence and to the alleged perpetrators.

This ESPN report makes it clear, that while Nassar’s crimes have been uncovered, the football and basketball programs have not been properly investigated and held accountable. This, no doubt, is in part due to the fact that MSU football and basketball bring a lot of money to the campus and to East Lansing. Anytime big money is involved, those who stand to gain from the profitable football and basketball programs will do whatever is necessary to silence any criticism, even if it means silencing the victims of sexual assault.

Betsy DeVos and Fake Sympathies

On Friday, January 26, Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, released the following statement in light of the verdict against Nassar. 

“My heart breaks for the survivors of Larry Nassar’s disgusting crimes. What happened at Michigan State is abhorrent. It cannot ever happen again — there or anywhere. Students must be safe and protected on our nation’s campuses. The Department is investigating this matter and will hold MSU accountable for any violations of federal law.”

Now, I can’t claim to know if Betsy DeVos actually feels sorry for the victims of Larry Nassar or not. What I do know, is that she has spent a great deal of time during her first year in the Trump administration to weaken and attack Title IX protections around sexual assault. Therefore, it is hard for me to take seriously the sincerity of Betsy DeVos’ claim that she thinks that what happened at MSU should not happen on any campus ever again. It is what we might name as, good old fashioned hypocrisy.

Last July, we reported on the groups working with Secretary DeVos to weaken Title IX.  We noted that groups like National Coalition for Men, an anti-feminist organization, was working with DeVos to undermine Title IX.

Another group invited by Secretary DeVos to the Title IX listening session was Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (Save). SAVE is another anti-feminist organization that believes that campuses are experiencing “rape culture hysteria.”

According to a recent article on Slate.com, “The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified SAVE, which opposes rules that prevent defense attorneys from entering evidence of a survivor’s sexual history in a rape trial, as a planet in the “manosphere” of misogynist online forums. SAVE lobbies against domestic violence protections, claims that the “leading reason” for abuse is “female initiation of partner violence,” and calls falsely accused perpetrators the “true victims of abuse.” 

Now, having Title IX protections in place, doesn’t mean that a campus will comply with those regulations. Again, the ESPN article is important as is states:

On Thursday, Outside the Lines reported that MSU officials in 2014 did not notify federal officials that the university had dual Title IX and campus police investigations of Nassar underway, even though federal investigators were on campus that year scrutinizing how MSU dealt with sexual assault allegations. The Outside the Lines report also found that MSU administrators still have not provided to federal officials all documents related to the Nassar allegations.

The interesting thing about Secretary DeVos’ actions against Title IX and the MSU revelations, is that just two days after DeVos was in Grand Rapids to be part of the celebration of the new MSU building in downtown – a celebration that involved DeVos having informal conversation with MSU President Lou Anna Simon – is when DeVos weakened Title IX protections for sexual assault, as was reported by Diana Moskovitz.

In addition, there was a protest organized by MSU students and faculty the day she visited Grand Rapids for the MSU ribbon-cutting ceremony on September 20th. You can see from the signs above that much of the focus of the protest was related to her undermining of Title IX protections.

Two weeks after Betsy DeVos and Lou Anna Simon met in Grand Rapids, MSU asked to have Title IX federal monitoring come to an end. In this instance, both the President of MSU and Betsy DeVos are complicit in the sexual assault crimes committed on MSU’s campus. How many more victims of sexual assault must come forth before we take their pain seriously?

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