Possibility of John Engler as MSU interim president receives mix of criticism and support

Tuesday, January 30, 2018 - 9:03pm

It is anticipated the Michigan State University Board of Trustees will appoint John Engler, former governor of Michigan from 1991 to 2003, as interim president of MSU following the resignation of Lou Anna Simon.

Simon released a statement of resignation after criticism surrounding the case of Larry Nassar, a former MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor who received 40-175 years in prison for sexual abuse.

During Nassar's sentencing in Ingham county, The Detroit News released a report stating Simon and thirteen other high ranking MSU officials had knowledge of Nassar's misconduct. 

“To the survivors, I can never say enough that I am so sorry that a trusted, renowned physician was really such an evil, evil person who inflicted such harm under the guise of medical treatment.  I know that we all share the same resolve to do whatever it takes to avert such tragedies here and elsewhere,” her statement read.

Last week, the Detroit Free Press reported the succession plan with potential candidates for interim president including Engler, along with former Michigan governors James Blanchard and Jennifer Granholm. The board will convene at 9 a.m. Wednesday, where it is expected Engler will be appointed.

Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to publicly announce her allegations against Nassar, took to Facebook to write she is “beyond disappointed” with the selection of Engler.

“Engler is a deep political insider at MSU,” Denhollander wrote. “At a time the university desperately needs, and survivors pleaded for, outside accountability and leadership, the Board chooses one of the most entrenched insiders. Despite the Board's words about accountability, it is business as usual. I sincerely hope the Board reconsiders.”

In a later post, she acknowledged the expectation that Engler will indeed serve as interim president, expressing her hope that “he will act with leadership and integrity.”

The decision to appoint Engler has received criticism from Democrats across the state, while Michigan Republicans have praised the selection. Michigan Republican Party Chairman Ron Weiser stated he feels Engler will provide the experience necessary during the transition period in a previous interview with MLive.

“Governor Engler is an excellent choice to lead MSU in this difficult time. Both his pride for his alma mater and his reputation as a reformer will serve this great institution well as they seek to right the ship,” Weiser said.

Both state Sen. Curtis Hertel, D-East Lansing, and Michigan Democratic Party Chair Brandon Dillon have, according to the report from MLive, spoke on Engler’s connection to Attorney General Bill Schuette and his investigation of MSU, a tie that may create a conflict of interest. According to Dillon, Engler’s previous position as Governor allowed him to assist Schuette’s political career following his defeat for a position in U.S. Senate.

“I think it’s just another problem for Bill Schuette,” Dillon said. “Another day, another conflict of interest."