EAST LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Amid increasing criticism for the way Michigan State University handled complaints against former sports doctor Larry Nassar and questions about trust in her leadership, MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon is stepping down.
Simon’s resignation letter was posted on the university’s website Wednesday evening.
She wrote in the letter that “blame is inevitable.”
“As president, it is only natural that I am the focus of this anger,” she continued. “I understand, and that is why I have limited my personal statements. Throughout my career, I have worked very hard to put Team MSU first. Throughout my career, I have consistently and persistently spoken and worked on behalf of Team MSU. I have tried to make it not about me. I urge those who have supported my work to understand that I cannot make it about me now. Therefore, I am tendering my resignation as president according to the terms of my employment agreement.”
Simon’s letter began by again expressing sympathy for the scores of girls and women who say Nassar, a famed doctor for MSU and USA Gymnastics, sexually assaulted them under the guise of medical treatment.
“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 wrote. “I know that we all share the same resolve to do whatever it takes to avert such tragedies here and elsewhere.”
She thanked MSU outside counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, a former U.S. attorney, and the university’s Board of Trustees for their statements “about my integrity and the fact that there is no cover-up.” She said she’ll continue to cooperate with the Michigan attorney general’s review of how the university handled the Nassar case.
“(The attorney general’s review) is an important step toward providing more assurance to the university community and to the public,” Simon’s letter said.
The State News, MSU’s student newspaper, first reported the expected resignation, saying it would come before the end of the week at the insistence of the Board of Trustees. An unnamed “knowledgeable” source suggested to The State News that the only reason it hadn’t already happened is that the board didn’t have an interim president lined up. The Detroit Free Press‘ sources said it’s still not known who will take the interim job or for how long.
In a statement also posted on MSU’s website Wednesday night, Board of Trustees Chair Brian Breslin said the board “agree(s) with Dr. Simon that it is now time for change.” He added that Simon and the board would be working through details of the transition this week and would release more information as things were hammered out.
Simon’s resignation comes after a slew of calls for her to step down, including from Nassar’s victims, the MSU student body government, The State News, the Michigan House of Representatives and Michigan’s two U.S. senators.
Though the Board of Trustees last week stated Simon still had their support, two trustees broke with that in following days. Trustee Mitch Lyons said Saturday Simon should go and Trustee Dianne Byrum echoed that Wednesday.
“It is clear that the public has lost confidence in the current administration of Michigan State University, and changes are needed to move the university forward,” Byrum wrote in a statement.
Byrum also said she was disgusted by comments Trustee Joel Ferguson made when he called into Lansing’s Staudt on Sports radio show on The Game 730 AM WVFN Monday morning. In the interview, Ferguson said “there’s so many more things going at the university than just this Nassar thing.”
In her statement, Byrum called MSU tone deaf, unresponsive, unapologetic and insensitive to Nassar’s victims. She said she supports changes to the administration and the culture at the university, as well as a full public accounting of those administrators.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Michigan House passed a resolution 96-11 calling for Simon’s resignation or for the Board of Trustees to remove her.
Nassar was sentenced Wednesday to between 40 and 175 years in prison for multiple counts of sexual assault. That’s on top of the 60-year sentence he already received for federal child pornography charges.
“I’ve just signed your death warrant,” Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina told the 54-year-old when handing down the sentence.
His sentencing hearing lasted an unheard-of seven days, with 156 girls, women and supporters addressing the court. They called Nassar twisted, manipulative, “sick and evil,” and a monster.
“Why would you hurt so many innocent girls?” 16-year-old Grand Ledge High School gymnast Arianna Guerrero, who said Nassar started abusing her at age 12, demanded of him in court. “Why should we forgive you? Why should God forgive you?”
Those who spoke in court also blamed MSU for not doing enough to stop the abuse. One of them, Amanda Thomashow, went to MSU officials in 2014 and said Nassar had molested her during an appointment. That prompted a Title IX investigation, but Nassar was cleared. The investigator who handled that case has since been promoted, Target 8 found.
Last week, when Target 8 questioned Simon about MSU’s commitment to creating a better environment for reporting abuse in light of that promotion, Simon responded that it was not the time nor place to ask questions about the university.
The NCAA is investigating how MSU handled the Nassar case.
Read the full statement from Byrum here:
“It is clear that the public has lost confidence in the current administration of Michigan State University, and changes are needed to move the university forward.“First, 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.“Second, I am disgusted by the abhorrent comments made earlier this week by Trustee Joel Ferguson, who does not speak for other members of the MSU Board in any way.“Unfortunately, through this terrible situation, the university has been tone deaf, unresponsive, unapologetic and insensitive to the victims. As a woman who has always fought for womens’ rights and victims’ rights, and encouraged women in all areas, it is deeply troubling to me that so much pain and suffering has been caused by my alma mater.“A full public accounting, top to bottom, is long overdue and I support it, along with a change in the current administration and a change to the culture at Michigan State University. We owe it to the victims, the public and ourselves to do the right thing and let the healing begin.”