(WWJ) Michigan State University doubled down on its support of president Lou Anna Simon in the wake of widening allegations the university mishandled the case of sexual predator Larry Nassar, a longtime sports doctor who molested young girls.
More than 100 victims have given devastating court statements this week against Nassar, 54, who faces a minimum sentence of 25 to 40 years in prison for molesting girls wile he was a team doctor at MSU and at the Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians. He already has been sentenced to 60 years in prison for child pornography crimes.
Nassar’s victims include Olympic gold medalist Jordyn Wieber, who told the court, “I want everyone — especially the media — to know that despite my athletic achievements I am one of over 140 women and survivors whose story is important.”
Simon, who became president in 2005, was named by The Detroit News as someone who knew about accusations against Nassar and did nothing to prevent him from having access to new victims. The News found 14 MSU staffers “in some fashion were made aware of the girls’ complaints, but either did not act, or acted instead to protect Nassar…The group includes Simon, who was briefed about a 2014 Title IX complaint against Nassar, but allowed him to keep seeing the patients referred to him by the MSU gymnastics program for another nearly two years.”
Simon also came under fire for refusing to attend court hearings where victims spoke until there was such an outcry that she seemed to be forced into it. And then her reaction to their statements seemed to many to be wooden.
The MSU Board of Trustees issued a brief statement Friday afternoon saying, “We stand by the president’s side.”
Michigan State also requested an investigation Friday by the Michigan Attorney General, which attorney John Manly, who is representing many of Nassar’s victims, called a case of “too little, too late.”
“MSU until now has fiercely resisted all calls of Nassar’s victims, victim advocates political leaders and the press for the sunshine of an independent investigation,” Manly said in a statement. “The only reason Ms. Simon asked for one today is because MSU’s culpability has been exposed. If the leadership of MSU had any decency they would resign as a sign of contrition for their misdeeds.”
The university did hire an investigator to look into the case at one point, but that investigation ended with no report on file.
“Although we have confidence in the integrity of the various reviews already conducted by law enforcement, subject matter experts, and outside counsel to the university, we are making this request because we believe your review may be needed to answer the public’s questions concerning MSU’s handling of the Nassar situation,” the board wrote in a letter. “Only a review by your office can resolve the questions in a way that the victims, their families, and the public will deem satisfactory and that will help all those affected by Nassar’s horrible crimes to heal.”
The letter goes on to say the Board has heard from legislators and other stakeholders about the Nassar matter and there is a general sentiment that MSU has avoided being transparent, or worse may be involved in a coverup. They say this is not true.
Schuette responded to the request, saying he would provide complete review. However, he said “this week and the coming weeks are time for the survivors of Larry Nassar to have their day in court, and I refuse to upstage their time for healing.”