Simon officially resigns as MSU president after Nassar sentencing

Wednesday, January 24, 2018 - 8:51pm

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Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon has tendered her official resignation, according to a statement released on the school’s website Wednesday night.

MSU Board of Trustees President Brian Breslin wrote the trustees approved Simon’s resignation. Simon has served as president for 13 years, and has worked at MSU for the last 30.

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,” Simon's statement reads.  

Simon says the scandal has been “politicized,” and it is “understandable” she is the focus of public anger and blame. 

A source told the Detroit Free Press potential interim presidents in the trustees’ succession plan include former Michigan Govs. Jennifer Granholm, James Blanchard and John Engler.

Calls for Simon to resign peaked after Nassar’s sentence — 40 to 175 years on first-degree sexual misconduct — was handed down Wednesday afternoon. Simon was first informed of survivors’ reports and Title IX investigations into Nassar in 2014.

“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.”

Nassar molested and sexually abused hundreds of women and girls while on medical staff, both with MSU’s women’s gymnastics team and USA Gymnastics. 156 survivors delivered statements at Nassar’s week-long sentencing hearing in Ingham County Circuit Court, detailing three decades of abuse under the guise of medical treatment. Multiple survivors called for more accountability at MSU, and accused Simon, public officials and coaching staff of glossing over their reports.

Rachel Denhollander, the first survivor to go public with accusations against Nassar in 2016, blasted MSU’s handling of the case in the final victim impact statement delivered Wednesday.

“(MSU) did not listen in 1997 or 1998 or 1999 or 2000 or 2004 or 2014,” she said. “Victims were silenced, intimidated, told they were receiving medical treatment, and at times sent back to be further abused. This is what happens when a person puts their selfish desires over the people around them. This is what it looks like when institutions create a culture when a predator can behave unabated.”

Simon made brief appearances during the trial, but said repeatedly she did not want to take away from the survivors by attending the trial.   

“Lou Anna Simon, why are you not here?” survivor Alexis Alvarado asked in court Friday. “I do not want to hear another bullshit excuse from you.”

Within hours of Judge Rosemarie Aquilina’s verdict, the Michigan State House of Representatives passed a resolution asking MSU to resign Simon from her position.

“We have lost confidence in the ability of President Lou Anna K. Simon to lead a transparent investigation, to implement changes that will ensure it never happens again, to protect students, and to lead Michigan State University forward,” the House resolution, supported by House Speaker Tom Leonard, reads.

Statements from MSU’s trustees have been conflicting in the last week. Though the board publicly renewed their trust in Simon’s leadership Friday afternoon, trustees Dianne Byrum and Michel Lyons called for Simon’s resignation Wednesday.  

I support the resignation of President Simon, effective immediately, and I support the investigation by the Attorney General that will provide a full accounting of what happened and take an important step toward restoring trust, which has understandably been shaken,” Byrum wrote in her statement.

Vice Chair of the board of trustees Joel Ferguson affirmed his faith in Simon on a Lansing radio show WVFN, citing her strong fundraisers skills. 

“I mean, when you go to the basketball game, you walk into the new Breslin [Center], and the person who hustled and got all those major donors to give money was Lou Anna Simon,” Ferguson said in the interview.

In the interview Ferguson was quick to discredit the possibility of the NCAA getting involved. 

"To do what?" he said. "This is not Penn State. They were dealing with their football program. They're smart enough to know they're not competent to walk in here on this."

The NCAA opened an investigation into Michigan State's handling of the Nassar investigation later that day. 

Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Gary Peters, D-Mich., released statements echoing calls for Simon’s resignation Wednesday as well.

“It has become clear that the leadership at Michigan State University has failed to adequately prevent, address or respond to the victimization of young women and girls on its campus, and the crisis at MSU continues despite today’s verdict,” Peters’ statement reads. “Michigan State University has a long way to go in rebuilding trust with its students, athletes, faculty, alumni and the entire state of Michigan. To do so, it must have new leadership.”