The board of trustees of Michigan State University on Friday requested an official state investigation into whether school officials had ignored or covered up complaints about Dr. Lawrence G. Nassar, the university sports doctor who faces decades in prison. The request came amid growing calls for the resignation of the university president, Lou Anna K. Simon, over how much she knew about the abuses by Dr. Nassar, who is accused of molesting scores of female athletes.
Noting what the trustees called a “general sentiment that M.S.U. has avoided being transparent or, worse, that it might be involved in a cover-up,” the board asked Attorney General Bill Schuette to conduct the official inquiry.
The board, which announced the request after a closed-door meeting Friday morning, also announced its continuing support for Dr. Simon, despite demands for her replacement from prominent members of the State Legislature as well as from the campus newspaper, The State News.
Those demands came after The Detroit News reported on Thursday that multiple M.S.U. officials, including trainers and assistant coaches, had been told of inappropriate behavior by Dr. Nassar over two decades, and that Dr. Simon was informed in 2014 that an unnamed sports doctor was under a Title IX investigation. Dr. Nassar was cleared after the inquiry.
The university had confirmed that Michigan State’s police department received a report about Dr. Nassar in May 2014, according to a university web page about the case. The report was forwarded to the Ingham County prosecutor’s office, which did not file charges.
In a joint statement, the State Senate’s leadership asked the board to “act swiftly” to remove Dr. Simon, citing a loss of confidence. “The M.S.U. community deserves better from its leadership,” the statement said.
State Senator Curtis Hertel Jr., a Democrat whose district includes the university, said he was moved to call for Dr. Simon’s resignation after the disclosure on Thursday that she knew of a Title IX investigation involving a doctor in 2014, but took no specific action.
“I know that they deal with thousands of Title IX cases a year, but when it’s a physician, I think that’s different,” Mr. Hertel said. “I’ve never used my office to call for someone’s resignation. I’m an alum of Michigan State, and it’s the largest employer in my district. But we didn’t act swiftly and we didn’t act strongly. We need someone who is going to change the culture of the university.”
Dr. Simon, who has served since 2005, issued a statement thanking the board for its continuing confidence in her leadership. “I have always done my best to lead M.S.U., and I will continue to do so today and tomorrow,” she said.
Much of the national attention involving Dr. Nassar, who is accused of molesting as many as 150 former patients when they were young women, has focused on his role as a physician for the Olympic gymnastics team. Medal-winning Olympic gymnasts were among the women testifying or submitting written statements this week during his sentencing hearing in an Ingham County, Mich., courtroom.
In addition to Olympic athletes, some of Dr. Nassar’s victims were Michigan State students, and the university police have received more than 100 complaints about him. Until 2016, Dr. Nassar was a professor at M.S.U.’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, as well as a team physician for the university.
Michigan State has been named as a defendant in a number of civil lawsuits related to the Nassar case, and the university has established a $10 million victims’ fund.
The allegations involving Dr. Nassar were not the first time the university has been accused of mishandling sexual misconduct cases. In 2015, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights found that the university’s sexual-misconduct policies had violated Title IX, the federal civil rights law governing gender equity in education.
Last year, the university hired an outside investigator to look into how its athletic department had handled allegations of sexual assault against three football players, resulting in the dismissal of a football staff member.
The Nassar victims’ statements — which have been livestreamed, drawing thousands of viewers — have heightened criticism of the university in Michigan, where some have drawn comparisons between the Nassar case and the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Pennsylvania State University. Despite their request for a state investigation, the Michigan State trustees have denied that there was any misconduct and repeated that contention in their letter to Mr. Schuette on Friday.
“This simply is not true,” the trustees said in the letter. “We have worked diligently with outside counsel, who are providing the board with regular direct briefings.”
The trustees cited a finding by the former United States attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald, who was hired by the school to conduct a review.
Mr. Fitzgerald, in a letter to Mr. Schuette’s office, said, “The evidence will show that no M.S.U. official believed that Nassar committed sexual abuse prior to newspaper reports in the summer of 2016.”
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