2018] ARE CAMPUS VISITORS PROTECTED . . .? 95
year sentence,3 lawyers representing the victims filed civil lawsuits against
MSU on a number of grounds, including allegations that the university
violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal civil
rights law that addresses sex discrimination in federally funded education
programs.4 The law provides: “No person in the United States shall, on the
basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denie d the benefits of, or
be subjected to discrimination un der any education program or activity
receiving Federal financial assistance.”5 The damages suits brought against
MSU alleged that the university had knowledge of, and acted with deliberate
indifference to an ongoing pattern of sexual violen ce perpetrated by the
As a threshold matter in these civil cases, lawyers defending MSU argued
that the girls and women who were violated by the physician should be divided
into two discrete groups—students and non-students—for purp oses of
determining who has the right to access the protections of Title IX.7 At the
crux of this argument, which is supported by the holdings in rece nt, but
admittedly limited judicial opinions, is the idea that non-students who
experience the same kinds of harm as those who were actually enrolled at the
school lack standing to sue the university for money damages under Title IX.8
It is on these grounds that the MSU lawyers asked the court to dismiss the
cases brought by the non-students.9 The net effect of this motion to dismiss,
if granted, would have been to deny access to the civil legal system, at least vis-
a-vis Title IX, to numerous sexual assault victims. However, months after the
filing of these lawsuits, MSU agreed to a five hundred-million-dollar
settlement with 332 victims.10 While a win for the victims, at least insofar as
receiving monetary relief for the egregious harms the y experienced, and
3. Zach Schonbrun & Christine Hauser, Larry Nassar, Sentenced in Sexual Abuse Case, Is Back
in Court, N.Y. TIMES (Jan. 31, 201 8), https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/31/sports/larry-nassar-
sentencing.html. Nassar was separately convicted on child pornography charges, for which he w as
sentenced to 60 years in prison. Id.
4. See First Amended Complaint, John F1 Doe ex rel. Jane F1 Doe v. Michigan State Univ.,
2017 WL 4679022 (W.D. Mich. Aug. 24, 2017) (No. 1:17-cv-00029-GJQ-ESC), 2017 WL
4679022, at *13.
5. 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a) (2012).
7. See, e.g., Brief in Support of Joint Omnibus Motio n to Dismiss of Defendants at 22–24,
Denhollander v. Mich. State Univ., 2018 WL 580692 (W.D. Mich. 2018) (No. 1:17-cv-00029-
GJQ-ESC), 2018 WL 580692 [hereinafter Join t Omnibus Brief].
8. See Doe v. Brown Univ., 270 F. Supp. 3d 556, 560 (D.R.I. 2017), aff’d, D oe v. Brown
Univ., 896 F.3d 127, 128 (1st Cir. 2018); K.T. v. Culver-Stockto n Coll., No. 4:16-CV-165, 2016
WL 4243965, at *1, aff’d, K.T. v. Culver-Stockton Coll., 865 F.3d 1054 (8th Cir. 2017).
9. Joint Omnibus Brief, supra note 7, at 22–24.
10. Mitch Smith & Anemona Hartocollis, Michigan State’s $500 Million for Nassar Victims
Dwarfs Other Settlements, N.Y. TIMES (May 16, 2018), https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/16/us/
larry-nassar-michigan-state-settlement.html . The settlement by Michigan State, a p ublic university
that is the state’s largest, al so sent a loud warning to other col leges about the potentially
devastating cost of ignoring misconduct. Id.