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Michigan State's need for a new president highlighted by continuous mistakes

Asher Fair
70   //    29 Jun 2018, 05:05 IST

Business Roundtable President John Engler at the Monitor Breakfast
Michigan State University interim president John Engler

It was revealed earlier this week that Michigan State University's goal is to hire a new president by June of 2019. Former Michigan governor John Engler is certainly serving as the university's interim president.

Engler, however, is not a candidate for this position. This was confirmed by Brian Breslin, the Chairman of the Michigan State Board of Trustees, last week.

Here is what Breslin had to say about the matter, according to Detroit Free Press.

“He will continue to serve as Interim President until a new President is selected. John is not a candidate for the permanent position and has stated repeatedly that he wishes to depart as soon as the new President is chosen.”

Engler has served as Michigan State's interim president since shortly after the resignation of Lou Anna Simon at the end of January. Simon resigned in the wake of the Larry Nassar sexual assault scandal after serving as the university's president for more than 13 years.

The way by which Michigan State handled Nassar when he worked there and the way by which they have handled the fallout from the scandal as caused a lot of criticism to be directed at them.

Nassar, the 54-year-old disgraced former physician who worked for both the university and USA Gymnastics, was finally arrested in December of 2016 after sexually assaulting more than 300 of his patients under the guise of medical treatment for more than two decades.

Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison on three child pornography charges this past December. In January, he was sentenced to between 40 and 175 years in state prison on seven sexual assault charges. Finally, in February, he was sentenced to between 40 and 125 more years in state prison on additional more sexual assault charges.

He is currently serving his 60-year federal prison sentence at United States Penitentiary, Tucson in Tucson, Arizona.


Engler has faced recent criticism, which led to a vote by the Michigan State Board of Trustees in regard to whether or not to fire him, after it was revealed that he sent an e-mail to Carol Viventi, the vice president and special counsel to the president, back in mid-April. This e-mail contained disparaging remarks about Rachael Denhollander.

Denhollander was the first person to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual assault. She became the first person to do so when she told her story to The Indianapolis Star shortly before they published it in September of 2016. Three months later was when Nassar was finally arrested for his crimes.

In Engler's e-mail to Viventi, he accused Denhollander of likely receiving a "kickback" from her lawyer. Her lawyer, John Manly, is the lawyer for dozens of other people who accused Nassar of sexual assault and are filing lawsuits as a result of it.

Here is what Engler's e-mail to Viventi said, according to Deadspin.

“It is deeply appreciated. At least we know what really happened. 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.
"It is too bad we can’t have a debate about who is really trying to help those who were harmed by Nassar. At least, all of the positive changes are beginning to get some modest attention. It will be years before the use and abuse by trial lawyers point is understood. Have a good Sunday. See you Tuesday morning. John."

Just over one week after this e-mail was revealed, Engler apologized for saying what he said about Denhollander. However the Michigan State Board of Trustees voted not to fire him in a 6-2 decision despite the fact that they were pressured to do so by many people, including 137 of the people who have accused Nassar of sexual assault.

Here is what Breslin had to say about the matter, according to Detroit Free Press.

“John’s apology for the comments contained in an April email that was released last week is appropriate and appreciated by a majority of the Board. The majority of the Board believes Interim President John Engler has played a significant leadership role developing our new approaches and has been a driving force in the rapid rollout of many of these reforms."

As far as past instances of Michigan State not properly handling Nassar when he worked there, there are plenty of cases that demonstrate this. One such case is the case involving former gymnast Larissa Boyce and former Michigan State women's gymnastics coach Kathie Klages.

When Boyce told Klages that Nassar had sexually assaulted her back in 1997, Klages interrogated her, humiliated her, threatened her and ultimately ignored her accusations. In 1998, Michigan State softball player Tiffany Lopez also reported to her trainers that Nassar had sexually assaulted her, but no action was taken.

In 2014, a Michigan State Title IX investigation took place after Amanda Thomashow accused Nassar of sexual assault. However, Nassar was cleared of all wrongdoing after he sent police four presentations, a research article and 10 videos to convince them that was he was doing was legal when it really was not. Thomashow was told that she did not know the difference between sexual assault and a legitimate medical procedure.

As a result, Nassar was allowed to continue treating patients under new guidelines set forth by former Michigan State University osteopathic medical school dean William Strampel despite the fact that he remained under police investigation as a result of the accusations against him made by Thomashow.

Here is what these new guidelines were, according to ESPN's Dan Murphy.

"The guidelines included that Nassar should explain fully what he was doing before touching patients near their genitalia or other private areas, that he should avoid skin-to-skin contact whenever possible, and that a chaperone should be present during any such treatment."

Nassar did not adhere to these new guidelines, and Strampel, who stood up for him multiple times before he was finally arrested, never checked to make sure that he was doing so. Strampel himself was arrested back in late March for sexual assault and harassment of his own doing.

Last month, Michigan State recently agreed to pay out $425 million to the 332 people who have accused Nassar of sexual assault, and they set aside an additional $75 million protect anyone who comes forward in the future with their own allegations against him.

However, their work is far from over, and this is highlighted by the fact that they are seeking to hire a new president by June of 2019. Who will that president be, and when will that president be hired? Hopefully we know the answers to both of those questions within the next year.

Asher Fair
Beyond the Flag Expert/Editor Sportskeeda Senior Analyst SportsPress Owner
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