My day ended yesterday with the news that Bill Cosby was found guilty in his sexual assault retrial. Not surprising, but discouraging, as I grew up watching America’s dad, Cliff Huxtable. I woke up this morning to the news that yet another iconic television news anchor has been accused of sexual harassment. I used to watch Tom Brokaw every night and have always admired him.
Many of my beliefs from adolescence have been shattered lately, probably because I was taught to respect those in authority. But perhaps the biggest blow to my beliefs was the recent accusations leveled at my alma mater, Michigan State University (MSU). This university has been a huge part of my life. I learned so much from the incredible professors in the School of Journalism. Beyond that, I have two nephews who currently attend the university and numerous family members who went there. My family cheers for MSU and considers its teams our teams, even though we’ve lived in Florida for nearly 20 years. I have an MSU flag flying outside my house. (You get the picture.)
The Larry Nassar story is beyond horrifying, and it breaks my heart that it happened at MSU. It would be bad enough if the story ended with Nassar, but it doesn’t. MSU’s former dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine William Strampel reportedly failed to ensure restrictions were put on Nassar’s practice following a 2014 abuse complaint and now faces charges of sexual misconduct, himself. After this and more came to light, I had hope that MSU’s interim president, John Engler, would enact the changes necessary to make MSU whole again. However, he’s now being criticized for his response to survivors and there are calls for him to step down.
As this Editor’s Note was going into production, the Detroit Free Press reported that MSU had settled lawsuits with all 332 victims of Nassar’s assaults at a cost of nearly $500 million. Finally, some good news. The Free Press published a statement from the MSU Board: “We recognize the need for change on our campus and in our community around sexual assault awareness and prevention.”
It’s satisfying to see the women who have suffered sexual assault and harassment finally coming forward and getting restitution. The #MeToo movement (read “Into the Light”) is forcing organizations, and internal audit, to take a closer look at sexual abuse and misconduct and how it is investigated and addressed.
Where have all our heroes gone? They’re still here. They are the women who are stepping forward and fighting back. And, they are the men and women in our organizations who are listening and addressing these issues.