Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon will finally resign tomorrow, less than a week after MSU’s board of trustees voted to stand behind her. Trustees attempted to downplay Simon’s role in the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal and vouched for her fundraising chops, but the State News and Detroit Free Press both report that Simon will step down on Thursday.
Many of Nassar’s victims who spoke at his sentencing hearing this week called for those who played any role in Nassar escaping justice for so long to be punished. Clasina Syrovy was among the survivors who specifically called out Simon “for her cowardly behavior.” Simon is among at least 14 MSU employees who were made aware of allegations against Nassar years before he was initially arrested, and Simon apparently knew of parallel Title IX and MSU police investigations against Nassar in 2014, though she denies she knew they were about him.
MSU allowed Nassar to continue treating patients for 18 months after the school was made aware of allegations against him. As Rachael Denhollander put it, Simon’s MSU attempted to silence victims instead of reckoning with the sexual abuse it had enabled.
He was stopped by the victims, who had to fight through being silenced, being threatened, being mocked, by the officials at MSU who they appealed to for help. And now the very people who should have been protecting us all along ... have thumbed their nose at any semblance of accountability.
Update (8:49 E.T.): Simon has announced her resignation. Here’s the letter she sent to MSU’s board of trustees.
Members of the Board of Trustees:
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. I know that we all share the same resolve to do whatever it takes to avert such tragedies here and elsewhere.
As you and many in the Spartan family know, I planned to retire in December 2016, and we had begun a conversation about a smooth transition. Then the Indianapolis Star article appeared about USAG and one of the victims contacted MSU police to file a complaint. The MSU Police investigation commenced. Nassar’s employment was terminated shortly thereafter. Work began within the HealthTeam and other areas of the university to improve safety. Given the challenges, my transition was postponed. I appreciate the support you provided.
The survivors’ accounts are horrific. They are tragic, heartbreaking, and personally gut-wrenching. I take solace that many victims have indicated that the opportunity to confront Nassar is a step toward healing. I am proud of the exceptional work of the Special Victims Unit led by Lieutenant Andrea Munford with the steadfast leadership of Chief Dunlap. I am proud of my support of their work even though the results have been very painful to all who watched.
As Nassar’s legal journey to prison was drawing to a close, more and more negative attention was focused on Michigan State University, and on me. I am pleased that statements have been made by Mr. Fitzgerald and Board members about my integrity and the fact that there is no cover-up. I support wholeheartedly the Board’s decision to ask the Attorney General’s Office to review the events surrounding the Nassar matter. This is an important step toward providing more assurance to the university community and to the public. In the past, I have provided assurances to the Attorney General of my full cooperation, and I will continue to do so.
As tragedies are politicized, blame is inevitable. As president, it is only natural that I am the focus of this anger. 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.
Anyone who knows me knows I am a principled person. I have spent my entire professional career, more than 40 years, at MSU. I love this place. I have watched it grow and prosper, and it has been the honor and privilege of my life to serve as its president since 2005, and over the last few years, to have the opportunity to work with all of you toward our shared goals for MSU. I will continue to do whatever I can to help MSU prosper in the future as a Spartan in whatever role I may play.
Lou Anna K. Simon, President
John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor