Nassar Scandal Threatens MSU President

Andy Berg Headshot

The fallout over the Larry Nassar trial is growing, as calls began Friday for the resignation of university president Lou Anna K. Simon, and on Thursday USA Gymnastics announced it will close its Karolyi Ranch training facility after olympian Simone Biles said she had been abused by Nassar there.

By the end of the day Friday, nearly 105 of Larry Nassar’s victims will have read statements during a sentencing hearing taking place in Ingham County Circuit. The picture being rendered by victims is one of complacency and possible complicity at MSU's and USA Gymnastics' highest levels.

In all, six Michigan lawmakers have signed a formal statement requesting that Simon be removed from her position. Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive), and Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint), urged the university’s Board of Trustees to “act swiftly” and remove Lou Anna Simon from her post, saying the “MSU community deserves better from its leadership.”

Meanwhile, the top headline in Friday’s edition of The State News, Michigan State’s student newspaper, was direct: President Simon, RESIGN. In the corresponding opinion piece, Carly Geraci wrote:

President Lou Anna K. Simon, we now speak directly to you. Whether or not you admit guilt in this storyline, you need to do the right thing. 

Survivors of ex-MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse cannot move on without change. You “apologized” to them, you have thrown money at them, but about the only thing you haven’t done is listen.

Simon, if you’re the Spartan you claim to be, you will step down and bow out gracefully. We hope you make the right choice, because time’s up. 

Geraci goes on to spell out the case for negligence, charging that MSU faculty and staff knew about allegations against Nassar as early as 1997 and the school only conducted its first investigation into the matter in 2014, following allegations of sexual assault by a female patient. The Lansing State Journal reports that MSU allowed Nassar to continue treating patients for 16 months while he was under investigation by the MSU police department.

Nassar was eventually cleared of wrongdoing by a separate Title IX investigation and allowed to return to work. Geraci notes that MSU implemented policies that required Nassar be supervised while treating athletes but also contends that said policies were not enforced.

The evidence for complicity and negligence on MSU's part has been widely reported. The Detroit News claims that at least 14 MSU employees, including president Simon, were warned about Nassar in the two decades leading to his arrest. Those officials, the report claims, heard allegations from no fewer than eight women.

On Wednesday, Simon admitted to reporters in an interview outside the courtroom that she had heard about the allegations back in 2014. “I was informed that a sports medicine doctor was under investigation,” Simon said. “I told people to play it straight up, and I did not receive a copy of the report. That’s the truth.”

Nassar, 54, was found guilty in December on child pornography charges and was sentenced to 60 years for those crimes. He has since pleaded guilty to multiple counts of criminal sexual misconduct in multiple counties. He faces up to life in prison. As of Friday morning, Nassar had heard statements from 68 of his victims, with more than 35 still to speak. 

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