Michigan State taking steps to sanction two of Larry Nassar's former bosses

Michigan State took initial steps Friday to sanction two of Larry Nassar's former bosses at the university.

Interim president John Engler requested that Michigan State's provost revoke the tenure of former medical school dean William Strampel, which is the first step to firing him. The university's provost also suspended Dr. Suresh Mukherji, chair of the radiology department and another former supervisor for Nassar. Nassar, a former university and USA Gymnastics doctor, has been sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for molesting his patients. More than 250 women and girls have told police that Nassar assaulted them.

"I sincerely hope the courageous survivors of Larry Nassar will see this as unmistakable indication that things are changing quickly at Michigan State," said Engler, who took over as interim president on Jan. 31, in a statement released Friday afternoon. "I said last week that their efforts would not be in vain. This is just the first step in restoring trust in Michigan State."

Strampel and Mukherji were questioned during a law enforcement investigation that sought to determine if anyone else at Michigan State was responsible for failing to stop Nassar from sexually assaulting women on the school's campus. The attorney general's office recently asked Michigan State to turn over Strampel's computer, cell phone, work calendars and other records as part of a new review of how the school and its employees handled complaints about Nassar. In addition to concerns about his professionalism, Engler cited issues with Strampel's personal behavior when asking for his tenure to be revoked.

"[A]llegations have arisen that question whether his personal conduct over a long period of time met MSU's standards," Engler said.

Michigan State suspended Mukherji pending a review of concerns about his leadership. Mukherji oversees the MSU health team, which includes the sports clinic where Nassar worked. He did not follow Engler's instructions to preserve pertinent documents and cooperate with ongoing investigations, according to the Lansing State Journal.

Engler spokesman John Truscott told the Lansing State Journal that he couldn't provide specifics, but "we've said we expect full cooperation with all investigations, and if that doesn't happen there will be consequences."

Strampel took over as the College of Osteopathic Medicine's leader in 2002. He stepped down from that post in December citing medical issues but remains a member of the faculty. A faculty hearing committee will have to agree to remove Strampel's tenure before he can officially be terminated.

Strampel has been criticized for not doing more to stop Nassar from abusing patients. The former dean laid out guidelines for Nassar to follow when treating patients in sensitive areas after a 2014 Title IX investigation into complaints about his abuse, but he did not enforce them.

A panel of Nassar's friends and colleagues assembled for the investigation decided that when he inserted his fingers into a female patient's vagina he was doing it for legitimate medical purposes. Strampel told Nassar after he was cleared that the doctor needed to avoid skin-to-skin contact when using the procedure in question, make sure a chaperone was in the room with him and the patient, and fully explain the procedure before doing it.

Strampel, however, did not set up any system to make sure Nassar was following those new guidelines, and others at the sports clinic where Nassar work say they were never made aware of those specific requirements. He allowed Nassar to resume seeing patients in July 2014, shortly after the Title IX investigation ended. Police continued to investigate the same complaint for another 16 months before Nassar was cleared of criminal wrongdoing. More than a dozen women have alleged that Nassar assaulted them during that 16-month period when he was allowed to see patients while under criminal investigation.

Strampel has also been criticized for his email correspondence in 2016, when Nassar's serial abuse started to come to light. He called an Indianapolis Star article that included the first public accusations against Nassar the "cherry on the cake of my day" in a note to a fellow administrator. A week earlier, when reporters asked to interview Nassar for the upcoming article, Strampel wished him luck and told Nassar: "I am on your side."

Strampel is listed as a co-defendant in civil lawsuits related to Nassar's abuse. Engler's release said that the university will not assist the former dean in covering his legal expenses for those suits.

When reached for comment, Strampel's attorney, Steven Stapleton said of his client's involvement with Nassar, "It is our practice not to comment on pending litigation."