In a bizarre turn of events, Robert Kent, the Michigan State University Attorney who defended the school against sexual assault lawsuits such as the high-profile Larry Nassar debacle, has now been promoted to interim associate vice president of the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX Education and Compliance.
Rachael Denhollander, the first Larry Nassar sex assault victim to come forth publicly, said this was yet another insensitive move by Michigan State University. “At every turn, they signal an unwillingness to deal with the culture, and a message to survivors that their voices don’t matter,” she said.
MSU spokeswoman Emily Guerrant said that this wasn’t the case. Instead, Kent’s “expertise and background in working with civil rights cases and Title IX policies are helpful in the interim role.”
Brenda Tracy, a nationally known victim rights advocate and rape survivor, said that this sends a terrible message.
Who will want to go to a Title IX office … being led by one of the spearheads of protecting the MSU brand?” Tracy said. “It’s appalling to me. Part of his job … protecting MSU and its brand is picking apart survivors. There’s a way to help survivors and still help their brand. I think if you are protecting survivors, you are building a brand that it is safe here. You are telling parents you want to send your kids here because if something happens, we will take care of them.
This doesn’t do that.
Nassar Survivor Morgan McCaul said that those who need to report a sexual assault will have a terrifying reception. She told WLNS:
I think that sends a clear message to people that when they bring their case forward there is an element of assessing liability rather than a focus on getting them justice.
David Mittleman, a local attorney representing many Nassar survivors said Kent is too biased for this position, telling WLNS:
His past seems to suggest there may be a bias on behalf of the university and against those who would come to him or to his office and that’s not fair.
Whether or not he can be fair, the optics of this situation are terrible, and nobody could blame victims for thinking that he would be unfair. MSU is putting themselves in a terrible position with this appointment. What are they thinking?