When endorsing himself as a candidate for UC Riverside’s chancellor vacancy in 2012, Kim Wilcox highly touted his experience overseeing the medical school at Michigan State University (MSU), where he served as provost from August 2005 to July 2013. A report from the Detroit News published earlier this month, however, suggests Wilcox failed to act on numerous complaints of sexual misconduct against the school’s former Dean William Strampel.
Strampel, who was dean of the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine for 15 years, was arrested March 26 on charges of criminal sexual misconduct, misconduct by a public official and two counts of willful neglect of duty. The charges were levied after investigators discovered numerous claims against Strampel as part of the broader probe into former sports doctor Larry Nassar, whom Strampel directly supervised. According to investigators, Strampel, 70, used his position at MSU to harass, discriminate, proposition, sexually assault and solicit pornographic videos of female students, and was complicit in allowing Nassar to molest over 150 young gymnasts and other athletes under the guise of medical treatment.
According to reports, Wilcox became aware of Strampel’s alleged behavior as early as 2010, when he oversaw his dean performance review. The review included complaints that Strampel constantly interjected sexual comments into conversations with staff and students, openly commented about women’s bodies and often boasted about his sex life.
According to the Detroit News, Wilcox endorsed the former dean in spite of these complaints, writing, “Our several discussions over the past several months have reinforced my commitment and that of Dean Strampel to advancing the goals of the College within the broad mission of Michigan State University,” in a 2010 letter in Strampel’s personnel file.
At the time of the report, Wilcox refused to comment on the matter, telling The Highlander in an email sent April 4, “I will not comment on any ongoing investigations or legal proceedings involving Michigan State University (MSU) at this time … I join MSU in supporting efforts to provide the public and authorities with all documents and records necessary for a full and transparent investigation, including any records that involve my participation.”
But this past Friday, April 13, Wilcox elaborated on his role at MSU in a statement emailed to The Highlander, where he directly acknowledged the claims that he was aware of Strampel’s alleged behavior in 2010. “To the best of my knowledge, none of the feedback I received while supervising Strampel described behaviors articulated in the Michigan Attorney General’s criminal complaint filing,” wrote Wilcox.
Wilcox did, however, receive “some anonymous feedback that Strampel had made several inappropriate comments,” according to his statement, but claims he responded by instituting “a corrective action plan that directed Strampel to cease making such comments and to obtain counsel on proper and professional communications.”
He further claims that he recommended the campus conduct a follow-up review on Strampel in 2013, though this has yet to be confirmed by an MSU spokesperson at time of writing.
When asked whether Wilcox did, in fact, know of these complaints in 2010, an MSU spokesperson did not provide an answer, writing in an email sent to The Highlander on April 6, “Kim Wilcox was Provost at Michigan State University from August 2005 to July 2013. In this role he was responsible for completing dean performance reviews. Any questions about his statements should be referred to Mr. Wilcox.”
Wilcox says he is “troubled” by the revelations brought forward about Strampel’s alleged behavior at MSU.
“Having reviewed the criminal complaint against Strampel, I deeply regret that he caused pain for so many. I further regret that some individuals felt they could not report Strampel’s actions at the time they occurred, and I admire the courageous individuals who have come forward to report sexual harassment and sexual violence at MSU,” he wrote in the statement. “Finally, I continue to support efforts to provide the public and authorities with all documents and records necessary for a full and transparent investigation, including any records that involve my participation.”