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February 13, 2018
To the MSU campus community,
On this second day of my second week as interim president, I think it is important to address several matters many of you have raised with me.
Everyone knows the Nassar case is an international story. As he begins serving his sentence in a federal prison in Arizona, we are all still struggling to comprehend the extent of the damage he inflicted on so many girls and young women, and on their families.
Questions about how this could have happened and what must be done to prevent it from ever happening again are the subject of multiple inquiries. At the federal level, the U.S. Department of Education is conducting a Clery program review, the U.S. Senate has requested information, and the U.S. House of Representatives has two inquiries underway. The NCAA also is seeking information from us. In Michigan, the House of Representatives is requesting production of documents and the Attorney General’s Office, at MSU’s request, is conducting an investigation.
Add to these an accreditation agency inquiry and an ongoing blizzard of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, and the volume of compliance deadlines Michigan State University faces is daunting. Last week alone, we turned over data equivalent to some 45,000 pages of documents, emails, and other materials to William Forsyth, the independent special counsel who is heading the investigation for the Attorney General’s Office.
MSU is committed to cooperating with all official requests, and I’m grateful for the cooperation that faculty and staff have given the General Counsel’s office and the law firms that are assisting the university.
While the investigations are ongoing, activity in lawsuits representing well over 100 survivors continues to move forward. I’m following the progress closely as we work to return to mediation and, I fervently hope, a just resolution that helps the survivors bring some closure to this horrific chapter in their lives. Michigan State, too, needs to heal and to emerge a stronger institution, one where safety, respect, and civility are hallmarks.
That is not a new expectation. The University Policy on Relationship Violence & Sexual Misconduct states from the outset: “Michigan State University is committed to maintaining a learning and working environment for all students, faculty, and staff that is fair, humane, and responsible—an environment that supports career and educational advancement on the basis of job and academic performance…. Relationship violence, stalking, and sexual misconduct are not tolerated at Michigan State University.”
It is a privilege to call ourselves Spartans, one that carries a responsibility to adhere to standards of behavior, on campus and off, that should be well understood by all.
We know from Title IX reports that a large proportion of our sexual assaults happen on campus, that all too often those involved are familiar with each other, and that alcohol consumption is often involved. We can do better with our campus relationship climate, and I’ll continue reaching out to people and groups in the days ahead for advice and suggestions that can move us toward the kind of campus we all want to be associated with.
Finally, I viewed with great concern a recent ESPN report that gathered considerable national attention in no small part because it showed a promotional graphic of our head football and men’s basketball coaches with Larry Nassar. This was a sensationalized package of reporting that contained allegations and insinuations that we are now reviewing. The coaches were asked to refrain from comment while the reports were examined. That has been a burden that must be lifted. I hope that MSU can soon respond in full and affirm the integrity and probity that has been the hallmark of these two respected coaches.
It isn’t easy to live under a microscope. I’m proud of how so many members of the Spartan community have expressed concern for the survivors in so many ways. I’m pleased—but frankly not surprised—by the willingness of so many to commence the hard work of making real change in order to achieve an environment that truly is fair, humane, and responsible. To that I would add safe and civil.
I’m fully aware that there is a lot of work to do and not much time to do it. I appreciate your support as we together address the urgent tasks in front of us. Because this is how Spartans show their will.
January 31, 2018
The following is a statement from Gov. John Engler upon accepting the responsibility as interim president of Michigan State University,
The following statement is something I wish never had to be written. The gravity of the situation is so serious and with so many lives affected, I and Spartans across the nation are in disbelief that this has occurred at our university. But it has and I stand here with a level of resolve to commit all of my energy toward finding solutions.
Our main concern will always be the survivors and doing everything possible for them.
We owe it to them to fix the problems and change the culture so that a better MSU will be their legacy and they know that something positive came out of their suffering.
I am only here to help the university community address this crisis and lay a positive foundation for a permanent new president.
We have an extreme organizational challenge that must be addressed and I expect to use not just my experience as governor but also my apolitical experience running two national organizations.
It is humbling to accept this interim president position in these difficult times for my beloved alma mater MSU.
As the father of three daughters who just completed their undergraduate degrees, I put myself in the place of every parent who has sent their loved one to this great institution. I understand the concern and uncertainty as well as the frustration and anger. To those parents, be assured that I will move forward as if my own daughters were on this campus and will treat every survivor and every student as I would my own daughters.
In the coming weeks, I will be moving swiftly and decisively to implement changes that will protect anyone affiliated with our campus from sexual assault, harassment or bullying. Everyone should understand that this extends to all Spartans, on campus, off campus, in dorms, in frat houses, in apartments or wherever they may be. Anyone affiliated with the university will face the same scrutiny and the same expectations as to their conduct.
As part of the healing process, I ask that we all hold the victims who are now survivors of abuse close to our hearts and minds. Give them support, love and prayers to help them cope and recover. To those survivors of Larry Nassar, I am amazed by your strength and courage and I will not let your efforts be in vain.
This will not be a process that is played out through the media on a daily basis, but mark my words, change is coming. We will make announcements as warranted and will keep the public informed as appropriate.
I encourage the Board of Trustees to move forward expeditiously in seeking a full-time president. That needs to be a person who can lead this great institution with its outstanding faculty and staff.
I ask my fellow Spartans for their prayers and well wishes as we all move forward past this excruciatingly difficult time for the university and for so many people affected by the lack of responsiveness to their claims.
Finally, I give my commitment to do everything in my power to fix the situation, protect our students, repair the damage to MSU and plot a course forward so we can all hold our head up high and call ourselves Spartans.
I’ll conclude with something my daughter, Hannah, said to me and will always stick with me: “The only innocents in all of this are those who were victimized.”
January 26, 2018
Dear MSU Community,
As you know, this week has been deeply significant for the survivors of Larry Nassar’s predation and abuse. One after another, they spoke out bravely in open court last week. They asked that their voices be heard, for responsiveness, for action. We acknowledge their voices and say to the survivors, their families, and everyone in our community affected by sexual violence that we are deeply sorry and we recognize that change is overdue.
Today, the Board of Trustees met to take important actions to begin a new day at MSU. We voted to formally accept the resignation of President Lou Anna K. Simon, effective immediately, and appointed Vice President and Secretary to the Board of Trustees Bill Beekman as acting president. In addition, earlier today, Athletic Director Mark Hollis announced his retirement, effective Jan. 31. You can read his statement on the Athletics Department website. We thank him for his many years of service and contributions to MSU Athletics.
Mr. Beekman, who has served in his current role since 2008 and has been with the university in a variety of administrative roles since 1995, has agreed to serve for a short period while we identify an interim president. We will also begin a national search for MSU’s permanent president with input from all members of the MSU community—faculty, staff, students, and alumni.
But this is just the beginning. We acknowledge that there have been failures at MSU, not only in our processes and operations, but in our culture, and we are united in our determination to take all necessary steps to begin a new day and to change the environment at the university. The Board has initiated action to bring in an independent third-party to perform a top-to-bottom review of all our processes relating to health and safety, in every area of the university, and to provide recommendations that we will implement to change the culture of MSU on this important issue.
We also understand that survivors, their families, and the public have many questions about the Nassar matter, and we have asked the Attorney General’s Office to conduct a review of the events surrounding the situation. Today, we are calling on the Attorney General to begin this review as soon as possible and to appoint an independent third-party to promote bipartisan acceptance of the results.
Again, we are committed to taking action to create a culture that provides a safe environment for all members of our community, and the transition to new leadership will be a key component in helping us change course. The Board will play an integral role in these efforts and in making MSU a leader locally and nationally in preventing sexual abuse.
It is clear to the Board that we have not been focused enough on the survivors of Larry Nassar’s abuse. We deeply regret this, and it is our hope is that there will be an opportunity soon to resume dialog with counsel for the survivors, resulting in a fair and just resolution.
We cannot change the past, but we can and will devote our time and resources to foster healing and to move forward together.
Brian S. Breslin
Chair, MSU Board of Trustees
January 19, 2018
Dear MSU community member,
With several events related to the terrible crimes committed by former MSU physician Larry Nassar in the news, I want to describe what we are doing to address the issues arising from this matter and, more importantly, the steps we are taking to support his victims, create the safest campus environment possible, and do our utmost to prevent something such as this from ever happening again.
Today, the Board of Trustees wrote to Michigan State Attorney General Bill Schuette asking him to undertake a review of the events surrounding the Nassar matter. As the Board said, "We are making this request because we believe such a review is needed to answer questions that persist concerning MSU's handling of the Nassar situation."
The testimony of Nassar's victims this week made many of us, including me, listen to the survivors and the community in a different way. It is clear to the Board and me that a review by the Attorney General's Office can provide the answers people need. I hope this review will help the survivors and the entire MSU community heal and move forward.
Board Chair Brian Breslin and I watched the livestream of the first day of the victim impact statements, and Trustee Melanie Foster and I attended the afternoon session at court yesterday. It was heartbreaking to hear victims talk about how Nassar abused them and their trust. As I have said, I am truly sorry for the abuse Nassar's victims suffered, the pain it caused, and the pain it continues to cause. And I am sorry that a physician who called himself a Spartan so utterly betrayed everyone's trust and everything for which the university stands. The Board has joined me in expressing these sentiments, and I can assure you the Board and I are united in our commitment to help the survivors move forward with their lives.
Toward this end, the Board last month authorized creation of a $10-million fund to help survivors access counseling and mental health services, and last week we announced additional details of this initiative. The Healing Assistance Fund will be administered by Commonwealth Mediation and Conciliation, Inc., a Boston firm with extensive experience coordinating such services. MSU student-athletes and patients seen by Nassar at an MSU health clinic who were abused by him, as well as the parents of these victims, will be able to use the fund. Survivors and their parents also will be able to obtain reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses incurred for such services before the creation of the fund. Simply put, our goal is to support survivors by making sure they get the counseling or mental health help they need, with minimal worry about cost. We have also retained the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, which will provide referral services for Nassar's victims who do not yet have counselors and need to locate providers near them.
Our focus on survivors is necessary and appropriate, both now and in the future. But we also have taken a hard look at ourselves to learn from what happened. Since the fall of 2016, we have engaged external experts to comprehensively review various programs and recommend changes to strengthen our policies, procedures, and systems, including an examination of patient care and safety in our health clinics, our Title IX program, and how medical services are provided to student-athletes and others. In short, we have systematically reviewed and sought to improve every part of MSU's operations that were in any way connected to Nassar and his work, with the clear purpose of achieving the highest standards to protect students, athletes, and patients. Additional details are available on the MSU "Our Commitment" website: https://msu.edu/ourcommitment/.
I believe we have achieved much on this front over the last year and a half, although I also understand introducing new procedures does not change what happened to Nassar's victims or the pain they feel. I am deeply committed to the pursuit of best practices, with external input and transparency about the status of our progress. You can be confident that we will continue to take additional steps to improve our systems.
Apart from describing the work we are doing on behalf of survivors, I also want to update you on the significant developments taking place in the Nassar criminal and civil cases. Nassar has pleaded guilty in three criminal proceedings - federal child pornography charges, sexual assault cases in Ingham County, and sexual assault cases in Eaton County. He has been given the equivalent of a life sentence of 60 years for the pornography charges, the first of what I hope will be several lengthy prison sentences. This month, he will be sentenced separately in Ingham and Eaton counties. As I mentioned above, his victims are first being given the chance to make impact statements in court. This is happening now in Ingham County, where the proceedings are expected to run several days. The Eaton County court proceedings are scheduled for January 31. MSU and the MSU Police Department have worked and will continue to work with any law enforcement investigation looking into criminal matters involving Nassar. In particular, I want to thank the MSU Police and specifically the detectives in the Special Victims Unit, who spent countless hours helping bring Nassar to justice, as well as the FBI, the U.S. Attorney, and the Michigan Attorney General's Office.
While the criminal cases are nearing conclusion, the civil litigation against MSU, involving multiple cases filed on behalf of victims, has begun to move forward. Last Friday, the university's lawyers filed motions to dismiss plaintiffs' claims based on a number of arguments. Given some of the criticism leveled at MSU, I hope you will keep a few important points in mind.
First, MSU is entitled to, and its insurers require, that we will mount an appropriate defense of these cases. This means MSU's lawyers are making arguments in defense of the claims of civil liability. There is nothing extraordinary about such legal efforts - they are typical at this stage of civil litigation. Given Nassar's horrendous acts, these arguments can seem disrespectful to the victims. Please know that the defenses raised on MSU's behalf are in no way a reflection of our view of the survivors, for whom we have the utmost respect and sympathy, but rather represent, as the Board has said, our desire "to protect MSU's educational and research missions."
Second, depending on the court's rulings on the initial legal arguments, the parties may enter into a period of "discovery," in which each side will be able to review relevant documents and depose relevant witnesses to determine what happened and when. The entire pre-trial process can be time consuming, but it is often the standard means by which complex cases like this are decided on legal grounds or brought forward to trial.
So, as the litigation progresses in the months ahead, you will likely continue to hear a variety of allegations and accusations against the university. I ask for your patience as well as your understanding that MSU cannot litigate the cases in the media and that many public assertions may go unchallenged unless or until they are addressed in open court.
The Board hired external legal counsel to assist MSU in responding to the Nassar allegations and specifically instructed them that if they find any evidence during their ongoing engagement that anyone at MSU other than Nassar knew of Nassar's criminal behavior and did anything to conceal or facilitate it, then that evidence of criminal conduct will be reported immediately to appropriate law enforcement authorities and the Board will be informed.
In a recent letter to the Michigan State Attorney General, MSU's external counsel, including former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, underscored those clear instructions from the Board and stated that, ". . . the evidence will show that no MSU official believed that Nassar committed sexual abuse prior to newspaper reports in the summer of 2016."
The FBI and MSU Police Department also conducted a joint investigation earlier this year into whether any university employee engaged in criminal conduct relating to Nassar's actions; there were no charges filed. I have complete faith in the legal process and in the professionalism and dedication of local, state, and federal law enforcement.
We understand and respect the desire for information and details arising from the Nassar matter, which now spans 16 months, and we are committed to continuing to share whatever information we can with the MSU community and the public.
Lou Anna K. Simon, PhD
December 15, 2017
Dear MSU community member,
Last week, former MSU physician Larry Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison; he will spend the rest of his life behind bars. The sentence for possession of child pornography is the first of what I hope will be many lengthy prison sentences.
Nassar preyed on his victims’ dreams and ambitions, changing their lives in terrible ways. Under the guise of medical treatment, he abused his patients for years. “Underneath this veneer lurked a predator,” assistant U.S. attorney Sean Lewis said in a court filing.
While no criminal sentence will ever remedy what the victims lost, it is my sincere hope that it will allow some measure of healing to begin. Today the Board of Trustees announced a $10 million fund for counseling and mental health services as part of our commitment to support Nassar’s victims. This was the first board meeting after mediation ended. The trustees moved promptly to direct the establishment of the fund, as it was the right thing to do for victims regardless of the legal situation.
For me, this situation also reinforces the importance of taking a hard look at ourselves and learning from what happened—because it should never happen again. Since fall 2016, we have engaged external experts to comprehensively review various programs and recommend changes to strengthen our policies and procedures. That includes reviews of our Title IX program, the MSU HealthTeam, and how medical services are provided to student-athletes. Details can be found at the Our Commitment website. While much has been achieved, I understand that strengthening a policy or introducing a new procedure today doesn’t change what happened to these women in the past or the pain they feel.
Nassar’s criminal sentencing is not the end of the matter, and MSU is subject to multiple civil lawsuits. In the months ahead, we can expect to continue to hear a variety of allegations and accusations levelled at the university. Because the university does not litigate in the press, such allegations may go largely unchallenged until or unless the cases reach open court.
That said, last week, I directed our lead attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald, for these cases to respond to the Michigan Attorney General’s request for information gathered by Skadden Arps for our legal defense in civil suits. In a letter to the Attorney General, Patrick Fitzgerald stated:
“If…they found any evidence that anyone at MSU other than Nassar knew of Nassar’s criminal behavior and did anything to conceal or facilitate it then that evidence of criminal conduct would be reported immediately to…appropriate law enforcement authorities.…The evidence will show that no MSU official believed that Nassar committed sexual abuse prior to newspaper reports in the summer of 2016.”
As said earlier, the FBI and MSU Police also conducted a joint investigation earlier this year looking at whether any university employee engaged in criminal conduct; there were no charges filed. I have complete faith in the legal process, in the professionalism and dedication of law enforcement, and the integrity and commitment of the Michigan Attorney General.
As I have in the past, I want to express my respect and appreciation for the MSU Police who worked tirelessly to help bring Nassar to justice. To the brave young women who came forward about Nassar, you have my deepest thanks, respect, and sympathy. I am truly sorry for the abuse you suffered, the pain it caused, and the pain it still causes. I am sorry a physician who called himself a Spartan so utterly betrayed your trust and everything this university stands for.
Lou Anna K. Simon, PhD