(WWJ) Lou Anna Simon stepped down Thursday night as president of Michigan State University in the wake of Dr. Larry Nassar getting sentenced for up to 175 years in jail for his conviction as a serial sexual predator while he worked at the university and for USA Gymnastics.
Simon did not take responsibility for anything that happened under her watch, but said she was leaving because the tragedy — the largest sex abuse scandal in any American university’s history — had become politicized.
One hundred and fifty six young women offered heart-wrenching testimony for more than a week, detailing how Nassar had molested them under the guise of medical treatment.
“As tragedies are politicized, blame is inevitable,” she said in statement. “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,” she wrote in an open letter announcing her resignation.
That opens the door to one of the highest profile university jobs in Michigan. Who will get it?
The names being put forward include former Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Jim Blanchard, and John Engler. WWJ Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick reported exclusively on WWJ that Blanchard has expressed interest in the job. The Freep reports former Grand Valley State University President Mark Murray is a possible interim choice.
Many have questioned what she knew and when she knew it. Simon has said she received a report in 2014 about Nassar being cleared in a sexual assault claim, but she said she did not receive the full case file. No action was taken against him until the Indianapolis Star broke the Nassar serial abuse story in 2016.
Though she seemed to have the full support of the Board of Trustees at MSU, the NCAA and the attorney general are investigating the university’s actions.
State Senator Curtis Hertel says the resignation was necessary. “While I lost faith in the leadership of MSU, I still have the faith in the students and faculty there, and this is hopefully the first step in getting past this terrible tragedy,” Hertel told WWJ.
Skubick says more heads could roll, adding state Rep. Tom Leonard told him the entire board should resign. He later walked that back, Skubick said, to say they needed to be evaluated on how they handle decisions after Simon’s leaving.
Skubick believes an upcoming confidence vote from MSU faculty expected to take place Friday was the final straw for Simon’s tenure at the university. She had served as president since 2005.
“She revealed that she was ready to step down in December of 2016 — That’s when the Nassar story broke. For the good of the university, she stayed on. Ironically, had she left in December of 2016, nothing that happened after that would have happened to her and resignation last night might not have been an option,” Skubick said.