MSU's President Is Stepping Down After Saying Nassar Survivors Liked The Spotlight

by Caroline Burke
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On Wednesday, Board of Trustees Chair Dianne Byrum confirmed via Twitter that Michigan State interim President John Engler is resigning. Engler's decision to step down from his position comes in the midst of widespread outrage over comments he made about the women who accused former MSU doctor Larry Nassar of sexual abuse. According to The Washington Post, the board of trustees for the university confirmed that it would terminate Engler if he didn't resign by Thursday.

Engler's most recent comments came on Jan. 11, in an interview with The Detroit News editorial board. Engler said in part,

You’ve got people, they are hanging on and this has been … there are a lot of people who are touched by this, survivors who haven’t been in the spotlight. In some ways they have been able to deal with this better than the ones who’ve been in the spotlight who are still enjoying that moment at times, you know, the awards and recognition. And it’s ending. It’s almost done.

Immediately following his comments, members of the Dean's Council, an academic panel for MSU, released a public statement demanding that the board terminate Engler.

Engler's resignation marks the second time a MSU president has stepped down in relation to the Nassar scandal; The Washington Post reports that Lou Anna Simon, the previous president of the university, resigned immediately following the wave of allegations against Nassar.

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This most recent incident was not the first time that Engler has made controversial comments about the Nassar survivors. In June, The Detroit Free Press released an email chain in which Engler suggested that Rachael Denhollander, the first sexual abuse survivor to speak out against Nassar, was participating in "trial lawyer manipulation" for financial gain. In one part of the email chain, Engler wrote,

The survivors now are being manipulated by trial lawyers who in the end will each get millions of dollars more than any of (sic) individual survivors with the exception of Denhollander who is likely to get (sic) kickback from Manley (sic) for her role in the trial lawyer manipulation.

Following the release of these emails, Engler stated that his comments were a "big mistake." According to The Washington Post, he said in a public statement, "I was wrong. I apologize." Denhollander released a statement in response (via The Detroit Free Press),

Engler is so used to focusing on money and power, bullying and manipulating, he can't conceive that I would do what I've done because it's RIGHT, not because I'm getting something from it. I truly pity him. What a sad way to live.

Now, it seems that at least one MSU board member is happy with Engler's resignation. On Wednesday evening, Brian Mosallam, an MSU trustee, tweeted, "JOHN ENGLER’S REIGN OF TERROR IS OVER."

Engler's resignation letter is a full 11 pages long, and it's been released as a PDF by MSU. The resignation outlines the various sexual assault prevention and support initiatives he has championed during his year as president, and also points out other general campus improvements he oversaw.

At one point, Engler wrote, "I wish the entire MSU community well and I hope and pray that our excellent search committee can recruit the right President who will serve for the next several years."

The MSU board of trustees have not yet released a plan or timeline for the upcoming replacement search.