Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon announced her resignation Wednesday, the same day that former MSU doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years for criminal sexual conduct involving more than 100 girls and women over more than two decades.
Nassar committed the abuse when he was supposed to be treating the girls and women for injuries in a sports clinic on Michigan State’s campus. Many of the women who spoke at a sentencing hearing for Nasser in the past week blamed the university for missing opportunities to stop his abuse earlier.
In a letter on the university’s website announcing her resignation, Simon said: “The last year and a half has been very difficult for the victims of Larry Nassar, for the university community and for me personally. 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. …
“As tragedies are politicized, blame is inevitable. As president, it is only natural that I am the focus of this anger. Throughout my career, I have worked very hard to put Team MSU first. I have tried to make it not about me. … Therefore, I am tendering my resignation as president.”
Simon had spent her entire career — from the mid-1970s on — at the university.
The chairman of the Michigan State Board of Trustees, Brian Breslin, said in the same online announcement, “President Simon has offered her resignation to the Board of Trustees, and we will accept it. We agree with Dr. Simon that it is now time for change. … We will be working through the details of transition with President Simon through the rest of the week and will announce them as soon as we can.”
Two of Michigan State’s eight governing board members had called on Simon to resign. Trustee Dianne Byrum released a statement Wednesday evening saying she supported Simon’s immediate resignation.
The board of trustees met Friday for five hours before giving Simon a public vote of confidence, but fractures among its members became public a day later. Trustee Mitch Lyons said Saturday night that he thought Simon needed to step down because the public’s trust in her leadership was irreparably damaged.
Michigan’s state House of Representatives called on Simon to resign in a resolution passed Wednesday afternoon.
The MSU board of trustees met Wednesday to discuss ongoing litigation in civil suits related to the Nassar case that list the university as a co-defendant.
Simon’s resignation was welcomed in the state Legislature, where pressure had been building for her to step down or be ousted by the university’s board of trustees.
Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., a Democrat from East Lansing, where the campus is located, called it “an important step in moving the university forward.”
“We need to create a culture at Michigan State where survivors are listened to and believed,” Hertel said. “I don’t think that’s happened — not just in this case. I don’t think anyone could say that Lou Anna Simon hasn’t had great accomplishments. But I think in this case, her actions did not meet the leadership that we need at Michigan State.”
Hertel, who graduated from Michigan State, said further investigation is needed. State Attorney General Bill Schuette will review how Michigan State handled the allegations against Nassar. And the NCAA has asked the school for information regarding potential violations related to Nassar.
“We need to find out beyond the president’s office who had reports and didn’t act,” Hertel said.
The fallout included Michigan State professor Sue Carter stepping down as the faculty’s athletic representative.
“I had an exchange recently with President Simon that persuaded me to know my voice and the concerns of others are not being heard,” Carter said. “I could no longer be part of an administration that was not in full grasp of the damage that has been done to the girls and women and to the institution itself.”
On Tuesday, former U.S. national champion gymnast Mattie Larson called on U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan to push through a proposed law that would stiffen mandatory reporter laws for U.S. amateur athletics organizations. Her plea prompted a response from Ryan’s office on Wednesday.
“This past June, the House of Representatives passed the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse Act, a bill introduced by Rep. Susan Brooks. Later, the Senate passed its own version,” said Jenna Sakwa, a spokeswoman for Ryan. “Right now we are working to reconcile the two different bills into final legislation, and the House could vote on that as early as next week.”