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Larry Nassar’s victims will get $500 million from Michigan State. It’s not enough.

The university has yet to fully reckon with its own conduct.

Larry Nassar, the former Michigan State University sports doctor who is serving at least 125 years in prison on child pornography and sexual assault charges
Larry Nassar, the former Michigan State University sports doctor who is serving at least 125 years in prison on child pornography and sexual assault charges.
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images
Anna North is a senior correspondent for Vox, where she covers American family life, work, and education. Previously, she was an editor and writer at the New York Times. She is also the author of three novels, including the New York Times bestseller Outlawed.

Michigan State University will pay a $500 million settlement to the women and girls who reported sexual assault by sports doctor Larry Nassar, the university announced on Wednesday. But the school has yet to fully reckon with evidence showing that multiple staff members knew about Nassar’s crimes and did nothing to protect his victims.

The university reached the settlement deal in a private negotiation with lawyers for 332 women and girls who said they were assaulted by Nassar, the Associated Press reports; $425 million will go to those survivors, with $75 million set aside for anyone who comes forward later on. The settlement is nearly five times the $109 million Penn State University has paid to people who say football coach Jerry Sandusky abused them.

Each survivor could get between $250,000 and $2.5 million, a lawyer involved with the case told The amounts will probably be determined based on factors like the nature of the abuse and whether the person was a minor at the time.

In harrowing statements at a sentencing hearing in January, more than 100 people described how Nassar had sexually abused them or their children in the guise of providing medical care. He has been sentenced to decades of prison time: 60 years on federal child pornography charges plus sentences for sexual assault in two Michigan counties to run concurrently. He will serve at least 125 years.

Michigan State is facing its own fallout as a result of the case, accused of failing to act on reports dating back to the 1990s. The university is being investigated by the NCAA, the Department of Education, and the Michigan attorney general, who has uncovered accusations of sexual assault against William Strampel, Nassar’s former boss and the former dean of MSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine.

According to a Detroit News investigation, 14 Michigan State coaches, trainers, and other officials knew about allegations against Nassar before his arrest, and eight women and girls had made complaints.

As part of a 2014 Title IX investigation, a recent Michigan State graduate told university officials that Nassar had massaged her breasts and vaginal area after she went to see him for hip pain. The university talked to four experts, all of whom were tied to Nassar, according to the Detroit Free Press. Then the school closed the investigation, concluding that the woman simply hadn’t understood the “nuanced difference” between sexual assault and medical treatment.

On Wednesday, Brian Breslin, chair of Michigan State’s governing board, offered words of apology for Nassar’s victims: “We are truly sorry to all the survivors and their families for what they have been through, and we admire the courage it has taken to tell their stories.”

“We recognize the need for change on our campus and in our community around sexual assault awareness and prevention,” he added.

The university still maintains there was no cover-up of Nassar’s crimes. A vague recognition of the need for change isn’t the same as a full reckoning with the fact that women and girls had spoken up for years about Nassar’s abuse — and were ignored. For that, survivors are still waiting.

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