LANSING (WWJ) – While pressure increases in Lansing for Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon to step down, a plan may already be in the works to replace her.
WWJ Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick said reports were coming that, behind closed doors, the MSU Board of Trustees has already discussed a succession plan.
“And I can report here for the first time that former Governor Jim Blanchard, a Democrat from our area down in Southeast Michigan, is interested in becoming an interim president of MSU if there is a vacancy,” Skubick said. “That’s underscore there is not.”
Other names in the mix, Skubick reports, include two other former governors: John Engler and Jennifer Granholm. It was not immediately clear if either would want to job.
This information comes as the lawmakers in the Michigan House are weighing in on the matter. A resolution passed Wednesday calling for Simon’s resignation due to the widespread belief that MSU mishandled the Larry Nassar case.
“The weighing in is heavy; this is a heavy vote: 96 to 11,” Skubick said, noting that this is simply a resolution, and it does not have the force of law. Basically it’s a statement of opinion, 96 to 11, that Dr. Simon should step down.
The resolution, sponsored by Adam Zemke (D-Ann Arbor) reads in part:
“We have lost confidence in the ability of President Simon to lead a transparent investigation, to implement changes to ensure it never happens again, to protect students and to lead Michigan State University forward.”
Also Wednesday, Michigan Speaker of the House Tom Leonard (R-DeWitt) called for the trustees themselves to resign, while MSU Trustee Dianne Byrum became the second trustee to call for Simon’s ouster.
Nassar, who worked for MSU as well as USA Gymnastics, will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars after he was sentenced to 40 to 175 for sexually assaulting young female patients.
“I just signed your death warrant,” Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said, as she handed down the sentence, calling Nassar “possibly the most prolific serial child sex abuser in history.”
More than 100 former patients spoke prior to sentencing, details how they say Nassar molested them under the guise of treatment for gymnastics-related injuries. Simon was widely criticized for her actions during the trial, when she failed to appear and then did appear, giving what many considered a wooden statement. Questions are still swirling about what she knew regarding the complaints against Nassar.
For his part, former Gov. Blanchard donated $1 million to MSU in 2015 to establish the Public Service Award and Lecture Series.
According to his bio, Blanchard earned a bachelor’s degree in social science in 1964 and an MBA in 1965 from MSU. He served four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives before becoming the first MSU graduate to serve as governor of Michigan.
WWJ was not immediately able to reach Blanchard for comment.