While Michigan State University has been having success in the NCAA basketball tournament, it has not been doing well on the Title IX front. Ever since the infamous case of Larry Nasser, the MSU sports doctor and the team doctor for the U.S. Olympic girl's gymnastics teams who was found guilty of a litany of charges for sexual assault, Michigan State University has struggled to contain the fallout. Subsequent investigations have even found evidence that MSU did not handle complaints against Nasser correctly.
Now, MSU is trying a different tactic: Hiring a retired judge to help them write Title IX regulations for the school that comply with federal law.
Michigan State University Scrambles to Correct Title IX Rules
Michigan State University's rules and procedures for Title IX hearings was one of those that got struck down by a recent federal appeals court ruling. MSU's procedure for Title IX hearings – even those that dealt with allegations of sexual assault or rape – had denied an accused student the right or ability to cross-examine the alleged victim. This prevented an accused student from defending their rights and was especially problematic when – as many sexual assault cases tend to be – the only evidence consisted of two competing narratives about what happened.
In the federal court ruling Doe v. Baum, though, the Sixth Circuit determined that depriving an accused student of the right to cross-examine their accuser violated the accused's due process rights.
With such a gaping hole in their Title IX rules, Michigan State has turned to a retired judge to make some new ones.
MSU Hires Retired Judge to Craft New Title IX Regulations
Michael J. Talbot was hired back in February to help craft Michigan State University's new Title IX hearing framework. A retired judge from the state court of appeals, he had spent 40 years as a judge, including 20 on the appellate court.
Not only does Judge Talbot have an extensive judicial career, but he also has lots of experience working on sexual assault cases that involve the other major U.S. institution inundated with claims of harassment and assault – the Roman Catholic Church. Judge Talbot has served as the chair for the Board of Review for the Detroit Archdiocese, which reviews the external investigations done for sexual assault complaints against clergy, since 2002.
Despite his judicial experience and his time spent hearing sexual assault cases for the Archdiocese, Judge Talbot is still not without detractors – he was appointed to his spot on the Michigan Court of Appeals by then-Governor John Engler. The University refused to say whether Engler – who is being forced to resign from his position as interim president at MSU for comments in defense of Larry Nasser – had a hand in hiring Judge Talbot to his position at the school.
Joseph D. Lento: National Title IX Defense
Even if former governor and about-to-be-former school president Engler had a hand in Judge Talbot's hiring, seeing someone with real judicial experience getting involved in a college's Title IX framework is a relief. The Title IX regulations at far too many schools are interested only in keeping federal funding coming in and care little for the rights of accused students.