The testimony has been heart-breaking: all these girls, many now women, recounting the shame of their childhoods, the assaults by a monster.
But I felt like I was watching, in some fashion, re-runs. Penn State went through much of this. PSU allowed their iconic coach Joe Paterno to bury, for two decades, what he knew about pedophilia.
But MSU’s anemic reaction to this Nasser scandal makes PSU look good, in retrospect. PSU ordered an independent review by Louis Freeh, and released it to the public. This response — the only responsible one for a public university — is one which MSU’s board (which met on Jan. 19) has shunned, choosing instead to take their cues from Baylor, a private school. And as a result of PSU’s swift action after the Sandusky scandal, the school signed an “Athletic Integrity Agreement.”
MSU is a Party to the PSU Athletic Integrity Agreement
That AIA was signed by Penn State and the NCAA, but it was also signed by the Big Ten Conference, of which MSU is a member. MSU, therefore was, and still is, a party to that PSU Integrity Agreement.
There were many elements to that agreement. One was to hire former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (he of the Northern Ireland Good Friday accord) as the ‘Monitor’ to implement and oversee all of PSU’s work in response. As a result, Mitchell wrote three years of quarterly reports, which recorded in careful detail the efforts PSU undertook to to comply with the AIA. The great majority of Mitchell’s comments were favorable, because PSU, to their credit, worked so damned hard to change their culture.
How?: PSU effected two major changes (among the hundreds).
Two Fully-Trained Adults with Minors, At all Times
First, as regards any contact between PSU-related personnel and minors — those below the age of 18 — PSU committed — pursuant to Monitor Mitchell’s direction — that there would always be two adults present. PSU also committed that any of those characters who might have contact with minors would also be required to have had thorough training about their duties as “reporters” under state child abuse and federal Clery statutes.
Independent Team Monitor
Second, PSU committed to appointing an independent “Team Monitor,” for every one of its varsity teams, to report periodically and independently about each team’s steps to insure compliance with the AIA. (The University of Michigan has had, I believe, based upon reporting I saw about their tennis team, one assistant athletic director assigned to each team, to provide direct reporting to the AD.)
Pretty simple, right? Two trained adults while interacting with minors. And an independent Team Monitor for every sport.
MSU AD Mark Hollis was appointed to his position in 2008, so he watched the whole PSU Sandusky scandal unfold. He’s ostensibly competent and respected, and was appointed to the March Madness selection committee four years ago — which requires him to travel all over the country, at MSU’s cost. He also came up with the idea of having the MSU basketball team play a pre-season game on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific, for which he gained much notoriety. He also donated some of his fantastic salary, in combination with a donation from a Mr. Skanadalaris, for a recruiting center on the MSU campus, with this lofty name on the front: “The Mark & Nancy Hollis Family /The Skandalaris Family Engagement Center” This is a recruiting hub, which contains a large front-lobby sign which asks, “ARE YOU THE ONE?,” with a subtitle pronouncing, “Respect, Focus, Accountability, Positive Attitude.
Accountability. Respect. Focus. But as best I can tell Mark Hollis never appointed an independent team monitor for each varsity team, and did not insure that two persons of adult age and with thorough Cleary Act and child sex abuse reporting training were always present when interacting with minors. Hollis needs to answer a few questions:
1) did you ever read the PSU “Athletic Integrity Agreement,” to which you were a party?
2) did you ever read any of the thorough quarterly reports filed by Senator Mitchell for three years, which set a stake in the ground, defining the state of the art for handling issues having to do with pedophilia and sexual assault reporting?
3) why were underage athletes getting medical care in MSU facilities without, apparently, the attendance of two fully trained adults, as required by the AIA state of the art?
4) was a “Team Monitor” supervising, on site, the operations of the MSU gymnastics (and track and field, and other sports where girls were apparently molested) to be enabled to file periodic independent reports, but also to immediately alert you, as athletic director, about any specific, serious issues — such as those about which we are now so belatedly, and tragically, being told by girls/women who are now the effluent of Nasser’s libido?
That Athletics Integrity Agreement, issued six years ago, was and is a cookbook the for handling and prevention of pedophilia and sexual abuse at large universities. But it appears that MSU ignored it. And that failure to abide by an agreement to which MSU was a party may have been a direct cause of much of the horrific damage done to females by Nasser.
“ARE YOU THE ONE? — “Respect, Focus, and Accountability
MSU is in crisis. What must it immediately do, on a triage basis?
- MSU’s Hollis needs to report to the public on the above questions and, more generally, all steps which MSU took, since the AIA issued years ago, to comply with the state of the art standards so clearly outline in the Athletics Integrity Agreement to which PSU, MSU, and the Big Ten were parties.
- MSU must appoint someone like Louis Freeh to conduct a thorough review of what has occurred during Nasser’s tenure. It cannot mimic Baylor, by having its law firm conduct that review, and render no report, for two reasons: a) MSU has a duty of public transparency. (Baylor is a private school, MSU is public; b) the assaults at Baylor were by students, not paid or controlled by the school. The assaults at MSU were by an MSU employee.
- MSU needs to then appoint its own Global Monitor, like George Mitchell, to come in and oversee MSU’s ongoing compliance, over the coming years, with the Athletic Integrity Agreement to which it is a party, and any other recommendations rendered by the Freeh-type review described above.
- MSU must immediately impose the AIA rule that no MSU-related personnel can have contact with minors without a second such MSU person present, and that such persons have thorough training.
- Immediately appoint an independent Team Monitor for every sport, to report directly to the athletic director.
- Consider immediately imposing a rule that no athletic department-related personnel can meet alone with female students without a second such person being present.
Respect. Focus. Accountability.