Michigan State interim president John Engler has resigned following controversial comments he made about gymnasts involved in the Larry Nassar scandal.
According to a press release, the Michigan State University Board of Trustees on Wednesday accepted Engler’s resignation. Engler has served as interim president since Jan. 31, 2018.
The board also voted unanimously to appoint Satish Udpa as the acting president. Udpa, who currently serves as executive vice president for administrative services, will serve in the role until a permanent replacement can be found.
Engler’s resignation comes amid comments he made during an interview with The Detroit News last week, wherein he suggested that some gymnasts who had been abused by Nassar were “enjoying” the “spotlight.”
"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," Engler said during the interview. "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."
Engler's comments were met with immediate backlash.
"This university can no longer move forward with [Engler] at the helm," trustee Brian Mosallam told ESPN on Wednesday.
In a statement Wednesday evening, the MSU board expressed its regrets over Engler’s comments.
"While we collectively are working very hard to make needed improvements regarding the prevention of and response to sexual misconduct and relationship violence, as well as enhancing patient care and safety, none of our hard work will matter if people in leadership say hurtful things and do not listen to the survivors," board chairperson Dianne Byrum said. "To the survivors, the entire Board of Trustees extends our remorse over the regretful comments Engler has made. We are diligently seeking a new leader to continue our healing and guide our campus to achieve our aspirations in integrity, inclusion, research and education."
Shauna Thomas, co-founder and executive director of UltraViolet, a national women's organization that supports sexual survivors and demanded that then MSU President Anna K. Simons step down after the scandal broke, released the following statement condemning Engler's remarks, as well as MSU's choice to appoint him as interim president:
Survivors of sexual harassment and assault come forward to seek justice, despite the public scrutiny and trauma of reliving their experiences not because of it — and people like MSU Interim President John Engler, who attempted to shame these brave women earlier this week, are the reason that predators like Larry Nassar are able to get away with their abuse for so long.
Frankly, it is unacceptable that Engler was appointed as interim President of MSU in the first place — given his record of hostile views towards sexual abuse survivors. Engler previously accused Nassar's accusers of taking kickbacks from trial attorneys and staunchly opposed justice for rape survivors who had been assaulted by State corrections officers.
Engler's resignation is effective immediately.
Larry Nassar was convicted in January 2018 of sexually abusing more than 150 student-athletes over a period of more than two decades. He was sentenced to what amounts to life in prison.