Embattled Michigan State University president Lou Anna Simon has announced she plans to step down from her post in the wake of a massive sexual abuse scandal, releasing the following statement on the school’s web site:
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.
The change was made public the same day that the university’s doctor, Larry Nassar, was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for multiple counts of molesting women and young girls under the guise of medical treatment, ending a seven-day hearing in which many of his victims were allowed to confront him in person:
Nassar worked for two decades with U.S. Olympians, MSU gymnasts, and thousands of youth gymnasts as well as women and girls who saw him for other sports injuries. To many, he was seen as the only hope of getting their bodies healthy and back into competition, which dozens of women and girls said he used to manipulate and take advantage of them.
The career, power and reputation he had built for more than 20 years began to fall apart in September 2016, following an Indianapolis Star article and a new police investigation involving sexual abuse of a minor.
Rachael Denhollander, the woman who spoke to the Indy Star and filed that police report, was the last of 156 women and girls to give victim-impact statements during Nassar’s sentencing hearing.
She said she felt the sentence Wednesday was appropriate, and appreciated the movement that’s developed among those giving victim-impact statements during the hearing.
“It just makes me grateful for where we are because there was no guarantee we’d get here,” she said. “And even this exceeded my expectations.”
Members of the Indianapolis Star investigative team reflected on the investigation:
I saw the confident Larry Nassar, buoyed by a reputation as a caring miracle-worker. I saw the charismatic doctor, a man with a legion of adoring supporters. I saw the smooth Nassar, a master manipulater who had convinced police and university officials that earlier complaints were misunderstandings — and went on molesting young girls.
At times in the about 30 minutes we were together, he came off almost arrogant. That was particularly true as he tried to convince me the “misunderstanding” was the result of the women’s ignorance of his sophisticated medical work. His demeanor didn’t come as a surprise. Nassar was revered in gymnastics and highly regarded internationally as a sports medicine physician.
But at other times, I picked up a different vibe. When we first met, Nassar essentially pleaded that we not write a story. He even indicated he could provide dirt on USA Gymnastics officials. As we talked, particularly when he wasn’t directing the conversation, Nassar came off as much more socially awkward. Faced with a question, he would stammer. His eyes fluttered. They’re the kind of nonverbal cues I look for during contentious interviews.
The university has received searing criticism for its purported role in allowing the sex crimes to continue, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association has opened an investigation into the matter.