Mayor Meadows, Altmann call for Board of Trustees to resign
East Lansing councilmember Shanna Draheim’s son visited ex-MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar from June to July 2016 for a fractured tailbone injury.
Draheim’s son was not a victim of Nassar’s sexual abuse. However, Draheim said she's “sickened” Nassar was part of the community for so long.
“Many people in our community saw doctor Nassar,” Draheim said. “So I think it hits home for a lot of people in our community, who not only take a lot of pride in our university and our faculty and staff here, but when these are people who we know who have had their lives impacted by it, it definitely hits home.”
Nassar, sentenced to a minimum of 40 years for seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct on Wednesday, had 163 victim impact statements given during his sentencing period in Ingham County. MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon resigned amid calls for her job the same night.
Simon’s decision to resign was appropriate in order for the university to move forward and survivors to heal, Draheim said.
Mayor Pro Tem and MSU psychology professor Erik Altmann said he believes Simon’s resignation letter points to her misunderstanding of why people were upset with her performance as president.
“When I read it (Simon’s resignation letter), all I could think of was that this is how Larry Nassar could get away with what he got away with,” Altmann said. “She still doesn’t understand what happened here, which is that a sexual predator assaulted hundreds of people under her watch.”
Simon’s letter focused on how Nassar’s sentencing in relation to her leadership was politicized, Altmann said.
“She makes herself a victim in this, and puts herself on the same level as the people Nassar assaulted,” Altmann said.
Simon’s resignation letter was tone-deaf, East Lansing Mayor Mark Meadows said. “As tragedies are politicized, blame is inevitable,” Simon stated in her resignation letter.
“I think that’s an attempt to deflect responsibility,” Meadows said.
Meadows then said the entire Board of Trustees should resign.
“No exceptions,” Meadows said. “The buck doesn’t stop with the president … the buck stops with the organization, or the board that hires them. The trustees are as responsible as the president is for the culture that was created at Michigan State University.”
This culture at MSU ignored the victims’ pleas for help and attempted to undermine public knowledge, Meadows said.
“It doesn’t matter to me who knew what or when they knew it, I think that’s been their defense here,” Meadows said. “What matters is that the events happened, that people complained and nothing was done to remedy the problem and provide support to the victims.”
Holding the administration accountable for shortcomings is a beginning for the healing process, councilmember and political science senior Aaron Stephens said. For healing to continue, a culture of safety in which victims feel secure in coming forward is necessary, he said.
“If someone’s scared to go their boss with bad news, it’s not just on the employee for not reporting,” Stephens said. “It’s also on the boss for not being able to create an environment in which the employee feels comfortable coming and speaking.”
Stephens hopes Nassar’s abuse isn’t marked as resolved because Simon resigned, as there’s still institutional work to be done, he said.
“I think every organization, not just MSU, should critically analyze their own reporting procedures, their own organizational structure and make sure that nothing like this ever happens again,” Stephens said. “It’s not just about listening, it’s actually about being able to get something done in a safe and transparent way.”
Until the MSU Board of Trustees, "celebrity" coaches, MSU athletic director Mark Hollis acknowledge what has gone wrong at MSU, necessary institutional change will not take place, Altmann said.
MSU Trustee Joel Ferguson commented Jan. 23 on calls for Simon to resign, stating there was more going on at MSU than “just this Nassar thing.” Some of the comments Ferguson made were “incredibly inappropriate and insensitive,” Draheim said.
“I hope he would think about those (comments) and think about whether he could continue to lead,” Draheim said.
The president’s resignation needs to be “the start of the house cleaning,” but not the end, Altmann said.
“The Board of Trustees needs to resign,” Altmann said. “We need an orderly march for the doors. They need to appoint an interim (for Simon’s position), and then all step down, because this failure all happened on their watch, too.”
Resignations from MSU leaders should not stop at the Board of Trustees, Altmann said.
Basketball coach Tom Izzo, football coach Mark Dantonio, athletic director Mark Hollis and women’s basketball coach Suzy Merchant need to resign as well, Altmann said.
“These are people who have a lot of power in a system that allowed Larry Nassar to happen,” Altmann said. “I don’t think that they understand what happened, and I don’t think they understand the choice that they need to make, which is to be part of the solution or part of the problem. ... Through their comments, I think they have indicated that they’re not interested in being part of a solution.”
MSU coaches are cultural icons, and although there is money and reputation at stake, the university needs new icons if current ones do not become part of the solution, Altmann said.
“The administrative culture ... led to the failure to address this problem as properly as it needed to be addressed,” Meadows said. “It became worse and worse as time went on, and I don’t think there’s any excuse for it.”