Michigan State University’s Board of Trustees and its embattled president have finally confronted a truth they have been reluctant to embrace: Lou Anna Simon’s tenure as leader of the institution she has presided over for 13 years has come to an end.
Simon announced her resignation Wednesday night, in a letter posted on MSU’s website.
Precisely when Simon’s position became untenable is debatable. Was it when the Indianapolis Star first reported molestation allegations leveled against former MSU physician Larry Nassar by young women he had treated as the team doctor for USA Gymnastics? When the Michigan House of Representatives, and legislative leaders in both parties, joined the legions demanding her resignation? When a judge sentenced Nassar to 40 to 175 years behind bars?
Simon’s departure is an important first step. But it can’t be the last.
In a letter to the university community, delivered last week, Simon defended the university’s denial of legal culpability, saying the school’s insurers required it. She drew fire for skipping the first day of victim impact statements at Nassar’s sentencing.
The second day, she showed up, but her fumbling answers to basic questions did little to reassure victims that she understands how MSU’s passivity abetted their tormentor.
Confronted with a report that she and other MSU officials had been notified that the U.S. Department of Education was investigating complaints against Nassar as early as 2014, Simon dismissed its significance, saying she’d never asked to see a copy of the investigators report.
Two MSU board members up for re-election this year have decided not to run; they understand that at least in a popular vote, this scandal is not survivable.
It shouldn’t be. And other trustees should carefully consider whether they’re likely to help, or hinder, the school’s next steps.
A university is its people. Not a person. For the university to move forward, the culture that allowed Nassar to flourish has to end.
MSU has a lot to answer for. And a lot of work to do.
Print Headline: A good first step