Board announces MSU president will not step down amid Nassar scandal, Trustee Mitch Lyons counters
Update: This article has been updated to include statements from Trustee Mitch Lyons, calling for Simon's resignation.
Despite calls for her resignation, Michigan State University president Lou Anna Simon will remain in her position, the MSU Board of Trustees announced Friday afternoon. The board’s statement came as the president’s knowledge of former women’s gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar’s continued sexual assault of team members has come into question this week.
Nassar, a University of Michigan alum, served as a team physician at MSU for more than two decades, and had been on USA Gymnastics medical staff since 1996. Allegations first surfacing in September 2016 accused Nassar had repeatedly engaged in sexual assault and harassment under the guide of medical treatments to athletes. Simon was first notified of a Title IX investigation into a sports medicine doctor at the university in 2014, she told reporters in a statement Wednesday.
“I told people to play it straight up, and I did not receive a copy of the report,” she said after an appearance at Nassar’s hearing. “That’s the truth.”
Chairperson Brian Breslin said the board will continue to back Simon.
“We continue to believe President Simon is the right leader for the university, and she has our support,” Breslin said.
The trustees met for hours in a closed working session Friday, while survivors of assault continued to deliver impact statements in the fourth day of Nassar’s sentencing trial. As of Friday afternoon, 105 survivors signed up to speak before the court.
In conference since 10:30 a.m., MSU Board of Trustees says it still supports President Anna Lou Simon in wake of revelations she was notified of complaints against Larry Nassar in 2014 -- board took no questions following announcement
— Andrew Hiyama (@andrewhiyama) January 19, 2018
A Detroit News investigation released earlier this week reported at least 14 MSU officials were made aware of allegations against Nassar, “with no fewer than eight women reporting his actions.”
A number of survivors, state legislators and editorials from the State News to the Lansing State Journal have called for Simon’s resignation. Earlier Friday morning, MSU’s Board of Trustees and Simon both requested state Attorney General Bill Schuette conduct an investigation into MSU’s handling of allegations against Nassar.
MSU trustee Mitch Lyons broke from the rest of the board and called for Simon to step down as well, making him the first trustee to call for resignation.
“I feel that our best recourse is for President Simon to resign immediately in order to allow the healing process to begin, first and foremost for the survivors and secondarily for our university,” Lyons said according to the Detroit News. “I believe that without question, the public has lost confidence in Dr. Simon to effectively lead this university, and I believe that this loss of confidence is irreparable.”
Multiple survivors recounted Nassar sneaking them into MSU medical clinics to perform hours of “treatments” involving penetration and massaging.
"What if someone would have taken the very first accusation seriously? Would I have been abused?"
Nassar started abusing survivor Katelyn Hall when she was 13 years old. Her statement was just read in the courtroom.
— Riyah Basha (@riyah_basha) January 19, 2018
LSA freshman Morgan McCaul was one of the survivors to speak Friday. She blasted MSU, as well as USA Gymnastics, for being complicit in Nassar’s abuse.
"How many little girls could have been spared from this life long battle if someone from the university had done the bare minimum and just listened?" McCaul asked.
Nassar’s trial is likely to continue into next week — Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said she expects a sentence to be delivered on Tuesday at the latest.