The Michigan State University (MSU) has moved to fire the medical school dean for the actions of the child molester / doctor, Larry Nassar. Why does that happen in academia? I'm interested in knowing why the professors around a convicted child molester also have to lose their tenure and jobs. Is this a typical procedure of American universities?

For comparison, a person working in industry who is guilty of sexual crimes usually seems to be solely responsible and only they are held accountable - not their entire department of managers.

  • 7
    Hopefully, there is no typical procedure for a case like Nassar and everything around it. Clearly, what matters here is the meaning of "around." As for the specific case, clearly following the news is more useful than asking abstract questions here. -1 Feb 10, 2018 at 0:47
  • 19
    Read this article: nbcnews.com/news/us-news/… According to the article, the dean knew of at least two sexual assault accusations against Nassar, did not take recommended action to protect patients, and even told Nassar: "Good luck. I am on your side."
    – Anonymous
    Feb 10, 2018 at 0:58
  • 9
    People in senior management positions are regularly turfed out for either ignoring or covering up the illegal actions of their subordinates, especially when those actions occurred in the context of the employment. This is no different and the portrayal of the dean as "not involved" is very mistaken.
    – Nij
    Feb 10, 2018 at 3:23
  • 5
    He facilitated rape. I am suprise he is not in jail
    – SSimon
    Feb 10, 2018 at 5:21
  • 6
    Sounds like some religions who, if a priest had a “reputation” just moved them on to a new area - so they could start again or, perhaps hoping it would “go away”...
    – Solar Mike
    Feb 10, 2018 at 5:59

3 Answers 3


The Dean of the medical school is not being fired because he was involved in sexual crimes.

He is being fired because he poorly handled the Title IX investigation. He utterly failed to ensure the safety of student and patient safety, and he bears responsibility for that.

To characterize him as being "not involved in" the scandal is not accurate - the scandal is not only Nassar's actions, but that they were allowed to go on as long as they were without being addressed.

  • 4
    Well, it's not just title IX, but more general stuff... though the existence of "Title IX" should have been vivid in the dean's mind, etc... Feb 10, 2018 at 2:29
  • 4
    If the Dean knew that there was good reason to believe that this Dr. Nassar was guilty of what was charged (as if others have also filed a complaint) and did not act on it, there is complicity. Feb 10, 2018 at 2:56

Your analogy is mistaken. A better one would be: a manager's job description includes "making sure employees don't molest customers or other employees, and acting and initiating investigations promptly if any accusations thereof arise". Said manager then fails to act and investigate promptly when accusations thereof arise, or do anything to prevent potential future or ongoing incidents, thereby endangering both people and company alike. Still sound like getting fired is mysterious?


As a general principle academic tenure protects an academic against being fired for expressing unpopular views, but it still allows the university to fire the academic "for cause". Academics with tenure are not totally immune from losing their positions, especially if they engage in misconduct or failure that does not involve merely an expression of unpopular views.

In the case you are talking about, MSU has referred Dr William Strampel (Dean of Medicine) to Faculty Review Panel who will decide if there is "cause" to remove his tenure. The university alleges that he has failed to satisfy his job requirements in his administrative position, by failing to enforce guidelines on Nassar for the protection of students. There is certainly no suggestion that Dr Strampel was involved in the sexual assaults committed by Nassar; the allegation is that he did not properly adhere to the administrative requirements that would have restricted Nassar's ability to commit misconduct against students. He is accused of breaches of criminal law relating to misconduct in a public office for these alleged failures, and he is also subject to a review of his position by MSU.

This is an interesting case, because of the separate aspects of academic tenure as a protection of academic work, versus the responsibility of senior academics in their administrative capacities. I think there is a reasonable argument for the position that administrative failures ought to lead to removal from administrative positions, without necessarily leading to loss of tenure as an academic (e.g., Strampel might be removed from holding an administrative position, but still be allowed to work as a tenured academic in a research/teaching capacity). It appears that the university is seeking a full firing in this case, and it remains to be seen what the Faculty Panel will decide.

Update: It appears that Dr Strampel was convicted of "misconduct in office" and "willful neglect of duty" relating to his actions in relation to this matter; he recently lost an appeal against conviction (see news reports here and here).

  • 1
    Strampel was sentenced to one year in jail by Judge Joyce Draganchuk in August, 2019. During his sentencing, he received one year each for two counts of willful neglect in his role as former MSU doctor Larry Nassar’s boss and 11 months for misconduct in office. He was released after serving 8 months of his one-year sentence, two-weeks earlier than expected due to COVID-19.
    – CGCampbell
    Mar 10, 2021 at 10:52

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .