EAST LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan State University Board of Trustees on Thursday accelerated John Engler’s resignation and picked a new interim president.
Satish Udpa, a former dean of the College of Engineering who has been serving as the university’s executive vice president for administrative services, was named the new interim president of the university effective immediately.
“This institution means a lot to me and it means a lot to the citizens of Michigan, so it would’ve been irresponsible on my part not to have taken this on,” Udpa said after the announcement at a Thursday morning board meeting. “I recognize it’s a challenge, but at the end of the day this is a job that needs to get done. We can’t continue to operate the way we have been.”
“To the survivors and your families and this community: We hear you and we’re listening and we are sorry it took so long,” Trustee Kelly Tebay said, referring to the women who were sexually assaulted by former sports doctor Larry Nassar.
Engler was selected as interim president in January 2018 amid the fallout from the Nassar case. He announced his resignation Wednesday under increasing pressure from the board, pushed forward by the newly elected Tebay and Brianna Scott and Gov. Rick Snyder appointee Nancy Schlitching.
“The three new trustees changed the whole dynamic of this board,” Trustee Brian Mosallam told reporters after the meeting. “You’re only as good as your team.”
NASSAR SURVIVORS AND FAMILIES RELIEVED
Engler’s resignation had long been called for by many at MSU. From the very beginning, controversy surrounding his appointment. Each board meeting included pleas for his removal during public comment.
“I really do see a step in the right direction,” Kaylee Lorincz, one of the hundreds of women who says Nassar sexually abused her, said after the meeting. “I’m very optimistic and this is the first time I can say that.”
Lorincz and her mother previously told 24 Hour News 8 that December would be their last board meeting because they did not feel heard. On Thursday, they decided to return to the board room.
“My family asked, ‘Why are you going? He’s already resigned.’ And I said, ‘I don’t know. I feel compelled to be there,'” Lisa Lorincz, Kaylee’s mother, told 24 Hour News 8. “I am so glad. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss the statements today.”
Rachael Denhollander, the Kalamazoo native whose report to police led to the charges against Nassar, previously thanked the board for moving to remove Engler.
“What we communicate and prioritize, our attitude, matters more than any policies we enact. How we treat people is more important than any departments we create. It’s a lesson all of us need to remember. A checklist matters little, if it is not motivated by compassion and love,” she tweeted.
This time last year @gracewashere_ was standing up to Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse by writing a victim impact statement during his sentencing.
Now she’s reacting to Engler’s exit from MSU. @WOODTV pic.twitter.com/UoMWvkGlmw— Lynsey Mukomel (@lynseymukomel) January 17, 2019
TRUSTEES: REMOVING ENGLER NOT POLITICAL
In an 11-page resignation letter (PDF) to Board Chair Dianne Byrum, Engler agreed to resign. While Trustee Dan Kelly said it was not a partisan decision, Engler’s resignation letter to Byrum took a decidedly political tone:
“You have advised me that five Democratic members of the MSU Board, including yourself, have requested my resignation as MSU President. The election of two new Democratic members and the appointment of a Democrat to replace Trustee George Perles has created a new majority on the board,” Engler, a Republican and former Michigan governor, stated at the start of his letter..
“I don’t think it’s a Democrat or Republican decision to condemn comments that are not consistent with the values, or what we’d hope to be the values, of the university,” Kelly responded during Thursday’s meeting. “What I was particularly disturbed about is that fact that (Engler said) somehow this is over and I don’t believe it’s over. I don’t think it’ll ever be over. I think that this is a chapter in our history and we can’t ignore it or forget it. We have to learn from it and I think it would be a mistake to try and suggest to the new president that they’re coming in here with the belief this has all been done.”
For months Trustee Dan Kelly has been criticized for not speaking up during MSU board meetings. Today he did.
See how other trustees are reacting to Engler’s exit coming up at 6 on @woodtv. pic.twitter.com/cEXnsELfMh— Lynsey Mukomel (@lynseymukomel) January 17, 2019
Engler did not apologize for comments he made to The Detroit News editorial board last week in which he said that some survivors of Nassar’s abuse were enjoying the public attention.
“I expected him to not apologize and I expected him to tout a lot of things really our experts on campus did. Typical John Engler fashion, that’s the way he came across,” Mosallam told 24 Hour News 8.
Trustee Melanie Foster was absent Thursday. Every other trustee had the opportunity to address the room before the meeting adjourned.
Trustee Joel Ferguson opted not to give additional comment. He previously faced his own controversy for comments that resulted in calls for his removal from the board.