According to a statement released by the Michigan State University (MSU) on Wednesday, MSU president Lou Anna Simon announced her resignation from her position. Simon released a detailed letter after Olympic gymnastics doctor, Larry Nassar, was sentenced on Wednesday by judge Rosemarie Aquilina in Lansing, Michigan.
Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting underage girls while working as a sports doctor. In his response to the sentence on Wednesday, Nassar blamed the media for politicizing the case.
With her statement published on the MSU website, Simon said:
As tragedies are politicized, blame is inevitable. 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. Throughout my career, I have worked very hard to put Team MSU first. Throughout my career, I have consistently and persistently spoken and worked on behalf of Team MSU. I have tried to make it not about me. I urge those who have supported my work to understand that I cannot make it about me now. Therefore, I am tendering my resignation as president according to the terms of my employment agreement.
During Nassar's sentence hearing in January, former gymnast Lindsey Lemke not only condemned Nassar but also called out Simon. "I don’t know how you can still call yourself a president, because I don’t anymore," Lemke said. "You are no president of mine."
Lemke went on to say, "You say you aren’t responsible for this. I wish you would come up to this podium and be half as brave as all of us have had to be the past year and a half. To be brave enough to be a public survivor and a competing athlete of your university who let me down. To be brave enough to come up here and confidently tell us the reason why you don’t think that you are responsible."
Simon also mentioned survivors of Nassar's abuse in her resignation letter:
To the survivors, I can never say enough that I am so sorry that a trusted, renowned physician was really such an evil, evil person who inflicted such harm under the guise of medical treatment. I know that we all share the same resolve to do whatever it takes to avert such tragedies here and elsewhere.
She also called their accounts about Nassar's abuse "horrific ... tragic, heartbreaking, and personally gut-wrenching." Simon wrote, "I take solace that many victims have indicated that the opportunity to confront Nassar is a step toward healing" and added that she was "proud of my support of their work even though the results have been very painful to all who watched."
The MSU president also said that she was not part of any administrative cover-up for Nassar. Simon said, "I am pleased that statements have been made by Mr. Fitzgerald and Board members about my integrity and the fact that there is no cover-up. I support wholeheartedly the Board’s decision to ask the Attorney General’s Office to review the events surrounding the Nassar matter."
Ending her resignation letter, Simon called herself a "principled" figure and said, "Anyone who knows me knows I am a principled person. I have spent my entire professional career, more than 40 years, at MSU. I love this place." She added, "I will continue to do whatever I can to help MSU prosper in the future as a Spartan in whatever role I may play."
For now, the university's administration has not identified who will replace Simon in the interim.