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Michigan State University Reportedly Spent $500k To Monitor The Social Media Accounts Of Larry Nassar's Accusers And Journalists

from the money-poorly-spent dept

One of the largest stories of the past year has been the Larry Nassar story. Nassar, the now disgraced atheltic trainer for multiple entities, including USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, has been accused by scores of women for sexual abuse and misconduct under the guise of his medical profession. Recently, Nassar's boss at Michigan State, William Strimpel, who was the university's dean of the osteopathic medical school, was himself charged with criminal sexual misconduct. Whatever is going on at Michigan State, it hasn't been good for some time.

One would imagine that in the wake of the allegations and, in the case of Nassar, conviction, the school would be getting its collective shit together. Instead, MSU has taken on the project of obfuscating what occurred under the school's watch and, reportedly, paying half-a-million dollars to have an outside firm monitor the social media accounts of Nassar's accusers and the journalists that have been and are covering the story.

MSU hired the New York-based public relations firm Weber Shandwick to do more 1,440 hours of work. “The firm billed for work done by 18 different employees, whose hourly rates ranged from $200 to $600 per hour. Five of those employees billed MSU for more than $50,000, including one who billed for $96,900 and another who billed for $120,893,” according to the article.

During Nassar's trial, MSU employees as high up as former school president Lou Anna K. Simon were furnished with regular reports on what his victims and journalists were saying on their social media accounts. The reports also went into some depth about which stories and which victims were gaining the most eyeballs in the public. I suppose the idea here was to allow the school to get out ahead of reports that were beginning to gain traction, though, as the Deadspin post notes, the idea that any of this should cost a school $500k is rather absurd.

That’s a lot of money to spend to find out that when your institution is found to have harbored and enabled a serial sexual predator for decades, people are going to write some mean things about you on Twitter.

Meanwhile, news of this surveillance of the victims puts the school on poor footing should it want to make any attempt to rehabilitate its image. It seems obvious that both the time and money spent on all of this could have been better spent making sure monsters like Nassar are never allowed to work at the school again, while also making reparations for the abuse that has already occurred under its watch.


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  • identicon
    anon, 30 Mar 2018 @ 12:24pm

    This is one reason why our student loans are rising so fast...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2018 @ 12:40pm

    So this firm can monitor FB accounts even tho they are set to private and not public?

    How is this done? It sounds a bit sketchy, I imagine law suits will be forthcoming.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2018 @ 12:42pm

    MSU administration is acting more like a corporation than an institution of higher learning.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    AnimalHouse, 30 Mar 2018 @ 1:17pm

    ye ole collge try

    well, this was an attempt to suppress/cover-up some really bad news at MSU. It failed, but maybe could have worked.

    By definition, successful cover-ups are unknown to the public and authorities. we only hear of failures.

    Political pundits always claim that 'the cover-up is worse than the original offense' ... but since they have zero knowledge of 'successful' cover-ups ... they have no basis to make such a claim.

    Threatening/punishing critics and whistleblowers is commonplace in government and private organizations -- and it often works. Hiring private detectives to get dirt on people is an honored American tradition for 200 years.

    Managers in big government universities seem especially prone to this type of unethical behavior (UPENN/joe Paterno)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2018 @ 3:17pm

      Re: ye ole collge try

      "Managers in big government universities seem especially prone to this type of unethical behavior (UPENN/joe Paterno)"

      NOT UPENN. PSU. Joe Paterno worked for Pennsylvania State University, which is in State College, roughly in the center of the state, and part of the Big 10. UPENN is the University of Pennsylvania, located in the southeast corner of the state in Philadelphia, part of the Ivy League.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2018 @ 4:54pm

      Re: ye ole collge try

      "Managers in big government universities seem especially prone to this type of unethical behavior"

      Is this because they try to run it like a business rather than a university?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2018 @ 3:23pm

    That's an insane amount of money

    A scraper that pulls tweets and turns them into RSS (which can then be turned into email) would have provided nearly realtime monitoring of all of this in a portable, archivable, shareable format.

    But technical and financial quibbling aside, and I write this as someone who (a) coaches athletes and (b) has family members who are young athletes: fuck you, MSU. Had you not tried to ignore this, to deny this, to avoid this, to conceal this, then NONE of this would be necessary, and maybe, just maybe, hundreds of victims might have been spared. You served those athletes poorly. You served your students poorly. You served your faculty and staff poorly. And you absolutely deserve the ass-kicking you're going to get in court.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 31 Mar 2018 @ 8:04am

    I guess while they were watching the victim & journalists they should have invested some time into Nassers supervisor who was just busted for porn on a work computer, failure to implement changes after complaints about Nasser, coming onto students, and IIRC saying that not all of the victims were actually victims...

    Perhaps they could have fired him before the police arrested him...

    Protecting the image once again trumps being decent people.
    And once again the steps they took to protect the image, were made public and did even more damage to their image... and the next set of morons will try the same thing, b/c they will do it better...

    Of course the simple answer might be after the first 4 or 5 complaints and complaints made AFTER policy changes were supposedly made perhaps its time to consider not letting him treat young women & wonder why his boss never enforced the rule he made that Nasser was never to be alone during treatments.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    btr1701 (profile), 2 Apr 2018 @ 12:04pm

    Huh?

    Other than the exorbitant price, I don't see why this is surprising or a problem at all.

    Not only does the college have PR issues, but they're being sued every which way and it's minimum due diligence to take steps to know what the people suing you are saying in public about the case.

    Any lawyer who *didn't* do that would open themselves to a legal malpractice suit.

    And if the victims and journalists are so freaked out by this supposed "surveillance' of their public comments, why are they making the comments in public in the first place?

    It's like taking out a billboard along a public roadway to comment on the case, then freaking out when they find out someone from the college drove by and read the billboard.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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