CBSN

Sex abuse survivors "upset" with MSU after social media monitoring report, new arrest

Survivors of sexual abuse by Michigan State University doctor Larry Nassar are upset with the university after news of social media monitoring, the editor of school newspaper State News told CBSN on Friday. A report in the Lansing State Journal claims the university spent over $500,000 to a New York-based public relations firm to monitor the social media accounts of Nassar's victims and their families, journalists, celebrities and politicians.

The news of the alleged social media monitoring came days after William Strampel, who was dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine until late last year, was charged for allegedly inappropriately touching a student and storing nude photos of female students on his work computer. 

"Most survivors seem to be very upset with the university right now," said Riley Murdock, the editor of The State News. "Both in terms of the news of the social media monitoring and as well as the charges against Dean Strampel."

Nassar, who was employed by both MSU and USA Gymnastics, has been accused of sexual abuse and assault by more than 250 women and girls. He was sentenced earlier this year to at least 140 years in prison in three different cases. 

Murdock said he had spoken to Rachael Denhollander, who was the first of Nassar's victims to speak publicly. Murdock said that while he could not speak for Denhollander, he said many believed there had been a "systematic issue" at MSU. Murdock said many of the survivors feel the university did not listen to them and no one from the university had reached out. 

"The survivors had some inkling," Murdock said. "Strampel's defense of Larry Nassar, at least publicly, was documented for a while. He's been very defensive of Nassar … and it was known for a while that he did not enforce the own protocols he set out for Nassar following the investigation."

Murdock noted that those who talked about the "daily issues" were the people who were monitored. According to a public records obtained by the Lansing State Journal, New York-based Weber Shandwick billed the university $517,343 for 1,440 hours of work done by 18 employees.

The firm outlined and evaluated related news coverage and engagement on social media posts. The work previously had been done by university employees, though some of that continued alongside the outside firm's work.

A Michigan State spokeswoman said the university no longer works with Weber Shandwick. She didn't provide a reason.

The firm recapped media reports about the university's then-president, Lou Anna Simon, attending the second day of Nassar's sentencing hearing in Ingham County as scores of girls and women said he'd sexually abused them under the guide of medical treatment, including while he worked with the school and USA Gymnastics.

The firm also tracked speculation about Simon's possible resignation and, days later, reports about the resignation letter she submitted just hours after Nassar was sentenced.