EAST LANSING (WWJ/AP) – Michigan State University’s governing board was set Friday to have its first public meeting since the resignation of President Lou Anna Simon amid an outcry over complaints that the school missed chances to stop former sports doctor Larry Nassar from sexually assaulting young athletes and botched its response to the scandal.
Trustees plan to discuss the presidential transition, as the university prepares for new investigations by the state attorney general, state lawmakers and the NCAA while facing lawsuits filed by more than 130 women and girls.
Simon quit Wednesday, hours after Nassar was sentenced to between 40 and 175 years in prison for molesting some of gymnastics’ top athletes and others.
The board expressed support for Simon before her resignation, but she faced pressure from many students, faculty and legislators. While there has been no evidence that Simon knew Nassar was sexually abusing girls and women, some of the more than 150 women and girls who have accused him said they complained to university employees as far back as the late 1990s.
Board members, who are elected in statewide votes, have come under intense scrutiny. Two announced they will not seek re-election. Another, Joel Ferguson, apologized this week after saying there was more going on at Michigan State than “this Nassar thing.” He previously had said victims were ambulance chasers out for a payday. The school long resisted calls for an independent investigation before asking Attorney General Bill Schuette for a review a week ago.
“I am shocked and embarrassed at how insensitive some in the MSU family continue to be,” trustee Mitch Lyons said on Twitter Friday. “I look forward to implementing a plan today at our board meeting to create real change.”
Students planned a Friday evening march and protest.
In a recent filing, Michigan State asked a judge to dismiss the cases against the university on several technical grounds, not the merits of the allegations. The school says it has immunity under Michigan law and that the majority of victims were not MSU students at the time of the alleged assaults.
“These arguments can seem disrespectful” to victims, but a defense is required by Michigan State’s insurers, Simon wrote in a campuswide email last week. She added, “We have the utmost respect and sympathy” for victims.
The board last month authorized the creation of a $10 million fund to help victims access counseling and mental health services.
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