Michigan universities ask lawmakers to delay Nassar assault bill vote
Ashleigh Weiszbrod gives her victim impact statement with her parents behind her, Feb. 2, in Eaton County Circuit Court, the second day of victim impact statements in the Nassar case. | Matthew Dae Smith / Lansing State Journal via AP

First, it was the Michigan Catholic Conference of Bishops who raised “concerns” over proposed legislation, inspired by the Larry Nassar scandal, that would strengthen the rights of victims of sexual abuse would have to go after their abusers.

Now, things are getting even stranger.

Michigan’s 15 public universities, expressing concerns similar to those raised by the Catholic Church, are now asking the state legislature to delay a vote on the same measures, which would extend the timeline to file lawsuits against abusers and remove an immunity defense for government agencies.

The Michigan Association of State Universities sent a letter to state lawmakers and Gov. Rick Snyder Monday saying that the bills being considered would encourage the filing of a “significant number” of lawsuits against schools, churches, governments, and organizations. The group’s concerns come after reviewing an analysis completed by the Dykema law firm into the possible legal impact of the bills.

“We ask that decisions on these bills be delayed to allow for more analysis and discussion to ascertain their full impact,” wrote Daniel Hurley, CEO of the group that advocates for the state’s universities.

Currently, people sexually abused as children have until their 19th birthdays to sue. Under the proposed legislation, those abused as children in 1993 or later could sue until their 48th birthday.

Republican State Sen. Margaret O’Brien, a lead sponsor of the bill, told the Associated Press that resistance to the measure is “not surprising but very disappointing…I don’t understand what a delay would do except delay justice, or maybe the hope is to stop it entirely.”

The universities said their concerns would remain even if the state senate passes an amendment setting a Dec. 31, 2019 deadline for victims to file a lawsuit for older claims of abuse.

One of the bills adds college employees and youth sports coaches, trainers, and volunteers to the list of individuals who must report suspected abuse or neglect of a child.

O’Brien added that the measures were meant to:

“Eliminate child sexual abuse. It’s heartbreaking what too many boys and girls go through in today’s day and age. … It’s unfortunate that instead of demanding this change and fighting for justice, it’s just all about financial liability.”

The Michigan State Senate is likely to vote on the legislation this week.

In an earlier story, I mentioned that I couldn’t imagine anyone who would or could oppose a bill offering more protection for sexual assault victims, but it seems I just wasn’t imaginative enough. The list of those opposing these protections keeps growing.


Al Neal
Al Neal

Award winning journalist Al Neal is PW associate editor for labor and politics. He is also the chief photographer for People's World. He is a member of the Chicago News Guild, Society of Professional Journalists, Professional Photographers of America, National Sports Media Association, and The Ernest Brooks Foundation.