A month after incoming Spartan basketball standouts Keith Appling and Adreian Payne were accused of a brutal sexual assault in a Wonders Hall dorm room, Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon directed a review of sexual violence education programs for the athletics program.
Nearly eight years later, MSU is refusing to answer questions about the probe.
ESPN reported on the allegations against Appling and Payne two weeks ago, naming the two players for the first time since the incident.
“We are not going to comment on the content of the ESPN story,” said Kent Cassella, associate vice president for communications and public relations strategist for the university. MSU declined to answer questions last week from City Pulse about an emailed public statement from Sept. 2010.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has begun a criminal probe of MSU’s handling of the case of former MSU employee Dr. Larry Nassar, convicted of molesting hundreds of girls and women over the course of two decades. The Attorney General’s office would not say whether the probe would include the handling of other sexual assault cases on campus.
In a Sept. 30, 2010 response to questions about the the Appling/Payne assault, Cassella wrote: “President Simon has asked the university Director of Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives to review the content and effectiveness of education provided to student-athletes regarding sexual harassment and violence against women, as well as to review with the Athletics Director any sports-specific issues that may need to be addressed.”
The email string, responding to questions to Michigan Messenger, which first reported the sexual assault allegations, includes statements that top level administrators were aware of the sexual assault, including leaders in the athletic program itself.
“It is standard procedure for the police to inform administration of reports of all serious incidents, including those of sexual assault,” Cassella wrote in that same statement. “When allegations involve student-athletes, the Athletic Department is also informed.”
Internal emails indicated university officials ignored their policies for removing Appling and Payne from Wonders Hall and in preventing them from entering Wonders Hall again. They show that officials moved the two players to Spartan Village, an apartment complex on campus, despite university rules requiring residents of the apartments be sophomore level or higher in grade level. The emails reveal that officials decided not to issue the players an official trespass letter, allowing their arrest if they entered Wonders Hall.
Lauren Allswede was a sexual assault counselor at MSU at the time Appling and Payne were accused of sexual assault. She worked for the university for seven years and said the actions by the administration at the time were not standard procedure.
“They have a little asterisk in the policy, where they can do whatever they want,” Allswede said. “But the actions they took were new to all of us, and the lack of communication made it difficult for staffers to do their job and assist the student.”