Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon will step down in the wake of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal.
“As tragedies are politicized, blame is inevitable. As president, it is only natural that I am the focus of this anger,” she said in a statement posted on Michigan State University’s website.
The pressure for Simon to resign had intensified in recent days, as more than 150 survivors testified in harrowing detail at Nassar’s sentencing hearing. More than 160 women have now come forward with allegations against Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics doctor who served on the faculty and saw patients at Michigan State University for close to two decades.
Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison after pleading guilty to criminal sexual conduct in Michigan. He is already serving a 60-year sentence on federal child pornography charges.
“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 said in her statement. “I know that we all share the same resolve to do whatever it takes to avert such tragedies here and elsewhere.”
The State News, Michigan State University’s newspaper, first reported Simon’s imminent resignation. The university has come under increased scrutiny for its failure to appropriately act on allegations against Nassar. Calls for Simon to resign also began to escalate, including from some university Board of Trustees members and Michigan lawmakers.
Many women who spoke at Nassar’s sentencing hearing blasted the institutions — both USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University — for failing to protects its athletes and other patients, and ignoring warnings about Nassar. “I hold Michigan State responsible for enabling Dr. Nassar’s behavior,” one anonymous survivor said pointedly in court last week.
ESPN Outside the Lines interviewed four women who said they told MSU coaches or trainers about Nassar as far back as the 1990s. A separate Detroit News investigation found that no less than 14 MSU officials or representatives were aware of allegations against Nassar in the nearly 20 years before his arrest. At least eight women and girls had made complaints, including one who contacted local police officials.
Michigan State University has denied any wrongdoing in the Nassar case. Simon, in her statement of resignation, defended the institution’s handling of the case:
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.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has indicated his office will launch a formal investigation into Michigan State University’s handling of the case after Nassar’s sentencing is complete. (He will be sentenced in another Michigan county for criminal sexual conduct later this month.) The NCAA has also opened a formal inquiry into MSU’s actions.
Simon’s full resignation letter is below:
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