Sunday, November 27, 2022

Letters to the editor: Community reacts to MSU, Nassar

Editor's note: The following are letters sent to The State News about recent events. Only mild edits have occurred for spelling or brevity. All were sent before President Lou Anna K. Simon's resignation and Larry Nassar's Ingham County sentencing

Ted Halbritter

Labor and Industrial Relations, 1969
It seems prudent to wait for external investigations regarding
Nassar before administrative changes are made. Unfortunately, the buck stops at the top. I would hope President Simon will find those that had knowledge, dismiss them and then resign to show the victims that Michigan State has a modicum of empathy relative
to their past and future trauma.

Karan Mehta

Senior, Baylor University

“Imagine Silence”

Imagine being told that Johnny bought gun
And at his expense, students had their fun
A girl walks in said I heard him cursing and crying
So the principal told her she's dramatic, stop lying
She pleads, I just saw him take the school blueprints
But no teachers want to listen to students
Next day on campus, he's looking to kill or die
The audacity of the faculty still acting surprised
Now they sit back, and think, and realize
That this monster was created in front of their eyes
They didn't open those until victims cried
This could have been prevented, but they never tried.

Now, imagine being a woman, and born with no voice
Equality is a revolution, no longer a choice
So many strong ladies, who don't need a dick
Especially a forced one, like the prick from US gymnastics
Victims whispered for decades, never causing a panic
Instead they're being told, he's a doctor, it's organic
If just one adult listened, we may've avoided the tragic
Like a boat with gps but still crashing like Titanic.

This is a real issue, problems finally out the cage
This isn't just another headline, or a goFundMe page
It's great that their voices have started traveling fast
But the pain always lasts, the futures holding on their past

These girls, flexible, but stronger than hell
That scumbag going to jail, was saved by the bell
These survivors are getting stronger and standing prouder
They're becoming silent breakers, and only getting louder.

Jim Bove

To the 100+ victims of Larry Nassar,

There are no words.

My stomach has turned, my blood has boiled, and my mind has raced as I've tried to comprehend what you have endured. There's no way I will ever know what it's like to be in your shoes. I've struggled with how to respond and how to support you because I have absolutely no idea how. But I can no longer sit idle as my fellow alumni, along with many others, pour their hearts, nightmares and thoughts into the public’s eye.

I graduated from Michigan State University and I'm so embarrassed about my alma mater—in the way it has acted and reacted. But sadly I’m not surprised.

On one hand, I want to take everything I own that is green and white and burn it without ever looking in the rearview mirror. On the other hand, those of you who share your stories in court and/or publicly epitomize exactly what it means to be a true Spartan.

I considered making a donation, but to who? I want to make sure this doesn't happen to anybody else. Ever. No matter the school, organization, sport or activity. But I wouldn't even know where to start.

I thought about writing a letter to the administrators of Michigan State University encouraging them to fire every single person that had anything to do with this. But many of those very people who’d receive the letter appear to be the problem, not the solution.

I thought about trying to raise money to go toward a new training facility for the United States Gymnastics team in hopes of tearing down what Nassar helped to build. But it doesn’t appear that leaders there are worthy of it, and many of them were enablers in all of this.

I’d be OK  with not allowing the MSU Athletics Department to move forward. Period. With any sport. With any coaches. With any student-athletes. I’d be okay with them supporting each student-athlete transfers to a school that's going to take care of them, nurture them, and be role models for them. But I understand it isn’t everyone that is the problem and I can only hope that each of you continue with your careers and make MSU proud, despite what they have done to you.

This isn't a political issue. This isn't a college issue. This isn't a gymnastics issue. This isn't an Athletics issue. This is a societal issue. And there needs to be a societal solution.

So I ask each of you on behalf of almost anyone who has a heart … what can we do to help? What can we do to help you move forward? What can we do to make sure this never happens again at Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics or anywhere else? Please tell us.

Because there are simply no words that can do the job.

Jim Bove

Salvatore Castronovo

Civil Engineering PhD, 1997

I commend The State News Editorial Board for having the intestinal fortitude to recommend that MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon resign. I have written letters to the MSU Board of Trustees recommending they initiate an investigation. They have not even had the courtesy to respond.

Support student media! Please consider donating to The State News and help fund the future of journalism.

Ty Strohl

Big Ten Graduate

Dear Editor,
I, along with thousands of others, continue to be saddened and shocked by the hypocritical nature of the Michigan State University president.

As chair of the NCAA Executive Committee, she was completely in favor of the removal of the Penn State leadership as well as the $60M in fines.

From NBC News’ Tracy Connor: "As chairwoman of the NCAA's executive committee, Simon advocated for a multi-tier system of violations that could differentiate among major ethics infractions like those at Penn State during the Sandusky era and less serious infractions.

After all, Simon said, 'nobody's perfect'."

Ms. Simon, your time is now to stop being a hypocrite and ride off into the sunset. The damage you have inflicted to young women is horrendous beyond words, and you will continue to make MSU a laughingstock until you either resign or are removed.

Mark Adler

Creative Advertising, 2007

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?”

I’ll never forget when the dean asked me to sing the national anthem at my college commencement. I was so proud. Not just about the prospect my family and friends seeing me sing in front of thousands of people, but because I loved my school, and being chosen to do that felt like a real honor.

I don’t feel that way today. I don’t love my school. I don’t feel proud of my school. I don’t feel like defending my school’s reputation. I feel really sick and sad and ashamed and embarrassed. Embarrassed that I spent years donating to MSU. That I went to MSU. That I know MSU.

One hundred and fifty girls and young women. Many of whom were under the age of 16.

After remaining silent on the issue for a year…and since allegations broke out that 14 (FOURTEEN) MSU officials had been warned over the course of the past, oh, 20 years about Nassar, the MSU board finally released a statement this past Friday.

“Through this terrible situation, the university has been perceived as tone deaf, unresponsive and insensitive to the victims. We understand the public’s faith has been shaken. The Board has listened and heard the victims. Today, the Board acted and has asked the Attorney General’s Office to review the facts in this matter, and as information is presented, the Board will act. This can never happen again. As part of the Board’s oversight authority, we will retain independent external assistance to support our responsibilities to the university community and the public at large. We continue to believe President Simon is the right leader for the university and she has our support.”

They took no questions.

I read these words, and my eyes well up with tears. My fists clench with rage. My heart just hurts. They are not the words of teachers and professors who made a difference in my life. They are the words of legal analysts and publicists. They are the words of people without shame, only a concern of political fallout.

They are tone deaf. They are unresponsive. They are insensitive to the victims. 

I think about the way that doctor betrayed everyone who was in his care. I think about the way my school betrayed them even more by neglecting cry after cry after cry, and I think about the way it continues to betray them with these bullshit words which sound like they were written by committee. Most of us will never know the hell and horror of having our lives destroyed like the more than 150 young women who trusted my school’s doctor before he tortured them—none of whom were believed until last year, some of whom have taken their own lives—but we are all betrayed by those who were informed, allowed it to happen and now refuse to do anything about it.

Larry Nassar is a monster. He committed crimes that cannot be relativized or shrugged off as something that “can never happen again.” If any normal person was accused of these crimes, that normal person should want to die. But more importantly, there were people who enabled him. People who are presumably not monsters. People who go home and tuck their kids in and kiss their spouses before going to bed and presumably have no fascination with torturing and raping young women who have been told to trust them. And they are the people who analyze the bottom line and somehow decide that bottom line is not empathy or care or justice. It is not the well-being of young women who trusted them. It is politics.

They are the people at the very top. And if they don’t stand up to the most heinous crimes imaginable, no one does. If they don’t support survivors who depend on them, no one does.

These are the enablers. They are complicit in rape. And they are responsible for countless lives ruined and, in some instances, lost. If Lou Anna K. Simon stays on as president, it is sends a clear signal.

This is not our concern.

Today, I am so ashamed that I went to Michigan State University.

Lucus M. Lienau, 2002

Dear Editor,

As of Jan. 22, 2018, the fifth day of victim statements went underway at the Nassar sentencing all the while Michigan State University athletic sites or blogs continued posting unrelated topics that seemed to put a sense of further distance to the reality of the tarnished image the university now holds as the incubator of the nation’s largest case of sexual assault.  Just hours ago, from the time of this writing, blogs such as MSU@247sports and MLive have reported on the vandalization of the Sparty Statue by an unknown vandal with captions stating that authorities have yet to catch the perpetrator.  This is a stark reminder how college tribalism must be protected at all costs, perhaps the same rational at work, despite their denial, as to why trustees and administrators at MSU have reacted to the horrific crimes caused by Larry Nassar in a manner that is inexcusably delayed, tone-deaf and wholly inappropriate.  Or perhaps, it’s in the eyes of fans, staff and alumni that damage to a replacement statue has greater value than the security or safety that was ill afforded the victims who Nassar exploited. 

Since the accusations finally came to light, there have been little meaningful response from alumni, and even less from the Administration and Trustees who are charged with ensuring the safety of those that chose MSU for education and athletics.  At least, until it was far too late and even then, the response was contrived and void of basic humanity.  Dr. Simon’s apology failed to truly put the victims first, instead she outlines what seems to be an attempt to protect the University from a failed system of reporting coming on the back of the horrors detailed by victims through their courageous statements and evidence presented in the trial.  

As an alumnus, I have never felt more ashamed to be a Spartan. The overwhelming silence by alumni needs to end, starting with a call for the resignation of President Simon and each member of the board of trustees in addition to all staff remaining at MSU that had been involved with Larry Nassar that failed to act on accusations to their fullest extent.  If a path to healing is to begin as suggested by Ms. Simon’s letter of apology, then it can only occur when those that had failed to act appropriately have removed themselves from the path.

In 1998, while Dr. Nassar was well underway collecting his victims, I recall a discussion during Freshman Orientation to bring awareness on campus rape and sexual assault.  The university only years earlier had installed emergency beacons throughout the campus in case of assault.  However, while the university seemed to have taken great care to acknowledge the threat that may have been posed to the student body outside its halls, they failed to acknowledge the growing dangers that can be within its walls with professionals that students should have been able to trust.  

Andrea Zagata Crutchmer

Journalism, 2007

Former State News Designer

Yesterday, I called the President’s office and told the man who answered the phone that I think President Simon should resign. It was not a call I ever expected to make. I am having a crisis of identity, wherein I’m not even sure if it’s OK to be a Spartan. I keep coming back to this — if the President knew, and did nothing, she enabled the evil that is Larry Nassar to run unchecked on our campus. If she didn’t know, well, I think she should have. 

President Simon — a strong, independent, smart woman — has long been a personal hero of mine. I am prone to looking up to women in power, because I believe they help other women turn the patriarchy on its head. Women in power are supposed to bring balance to this world. They’re supposed to look out for those with less power. I don’t want to imagine a world in which you hear of a Title IX investigation against a doctor on your campus and you don’t personally look into it, President Simon. It’s too awful to bear. You could have been the hero I believed you were. 

I have always worn my Spartan colors with joy and respect. The university’s missteps throughout this process have made me question that again and again. How many alumni must be out there who are rape survivors? Are they watching how this case plays out and feeling betrayed by the university they love? 

Before I hung up the phone, I asked the secretary if he had gotten many calls from alumni, requesting the president resign. “Yeah, pretty much all day,” he said. In that light, maybe it’s still OK that I am proud to be a Spartan.

Robert Ellis

Communications, 1976

As an alumnus who loves the university I am (sickened) by the behavior of Larry Nassar and the university’s response to the situation. While I am less sure than most that President Simon should resign, I am sure that Coach Klages should lose her pension and be criminally charged, that Kristine Moore, Lianna Hadden and Destiny Teachnor-Hauk should be fired. These people were on the front lines of Title IX and failed to do their jobs. I hope everyone puts pressure on these individuals to lose their jobs.

Guy Serumgard

Accounting, 1999

We are worse than Penn State.

The response to repeated reports of having a sexual predator on staff would seem to be one of common sense – support the victims and sweep the perpetrator and anyone who has allowed them to prosper out with the trash. And while our administration’s response has ignored this common sense, it’s made infinitely worse by the fact that Penn State laid down the blueprint for what not to do with their response to the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

And our administration ignored that blueprint.

In supporting President Lou Anna Simon on Jan. 19 morning, Michigan State’s Board of Trustees have embarrassed my alma mater even further, and they’ve guaranteed that none of them will ever receive my vote come election time. This assumes, of course, that they ignore the popular sentiment for all of them to resign with Simon and decide instead to stand for re-election.

And as I cannot speak as eloquently or bravely as the survivors have in the courtroom, I will instead make a simple plea to members of the Spartan community: deny them your money. Take whatever you would send in the numerous envelopes they send to alumni every year and instead donate it to RAINN, or Sanctuary for Families, or Safe Horizon, or a local charity dedicated to helping survivors of the type of abuse that Michigan State’s leadership allowed Larry Nassar to perpetrate.

The Board of Trustees is clearly hoping that their support for Simon will keep the donations flowing. Let them know that Spartans Will not stand for this.

Ashley Christensen

Apparel and Textile Design, 2016

I’ve hid behind the name Jane Roe 2 thinking it would protect me. My name isn’t Jane Roe 2, It’s Ashley Christensen and I have been speaking up about President Simon and her administrations injustices since my assault in 2013.

I’m not an olympic athlete and most people haven’t even heard of the major I graduated with. My rapist was expelled, and in 2015 when I was a resident assistant on campus, President Simon and Vice President Maybank allowed my expelled rapist on campus. I begged them to change their decision looking at Maybank while she smirked and I cried the hardest tears that have ever come out of my eyes.

At the moment I knew President Simon’s administration did not care about survivors or their voices. President Simon is a threat to the safety of the student body.

I am so unbelievably proud of all the survivors who have spoken up in the Nassar case. I used to post how many? After each new case I saw about Michigan State. So, President Simon, I want to ask you how many survivors does there have to be in order for you to step down?

How Many?

Asking for the Attorney General to investigate Nassar’s case isn’t enough. Every single case that has been presented to MSU under your presidency needs to be investigated. Every. Single. One.

You are not a leader, President Simon, and just like I told Vice President Maybank in her office in 2015, you are a coward.

The community needs you gone in order to heal, and we will continue to speak out until you do so.

Note: The State News reached out to Denise Maybank's office to confirm this story. No one could be reached for comment.

James Conroy

Communications, 1970

To the Editorial Board,

It is the height of hypocrisy for you to call for President Simon to resign — before YOU resign en masse. Where were you when this was all going on? Where were the Lansing State Journal’s “investigative reporters”? Where was the State Journal’s Editorial Board? Where was the Ingham County Prosecutor?

In the game of scapegoating, we believe President Simon is far down the list of those who should resign.

I challenge you to step back from your “me too-ism”, and ask what the positive and negative effects will be from the resignation of President Simon. You say that her resignation will allow the victims to “move on”. What medical or psychological or sociological expertise did you employ in making that determination? How will depriving the University of arguably its finest leader ever, help the victims? How will removing her expertise help make certain nothing like this ever happens again?

Of equal importance, what will YOU do differently in the future to make certain that The State News keeps the Administration apprised of information within your control?

By calling for her resignation, you have taken the easy way out.

James and Sharon Conroy

Claude Desjardins

Master’s and PhD, 1967

Dear Pres. Simon:  

Resign now. The global MSU community has lost trust in your ability to speak for MSU, and restore confidence in the administrative governance of the institution.

Your inability or unwillingness to take personal responsibility for managing MSU’s ties to Nassar only ratchets doubt about the judgment and skills that are required to lead a future effort aimed at understanding what went wrong, adopting strategies for reporting and managing student/faculty abuse, and restoring confidence in both the Office of the President and the related services supporting students, staff, and faculty.

Your failed judgment stands in the way of MSU’s future commitment to higher education in countless ways. For instance listening to you stonewall executive responsibility in national newscasts can only jeopardize MSU’s ability to attract and retain the most academically competitive faculty.

Pres. Simon—you must take full responsibility for the failure to manage the Dept. of Athletics and promote an administrative culture that is accountable to all institutional constituencies. Simply put, inadequate or weak mechanisms were in place to train and manage MSU’s athletic coaches and staffers to pick-up and act on the most compelling of student problems/complaints—sexual abuse. It is unconscionable to think that MSU’s administrators–at all levels—failed to rethink and reset institutional policies for managing sex abuse given the national publicity that surrounded the public disclosure of sexual abuse cases at Penn State University starting in 2010.

Be smart, how many male physicians undertake the physical examination of semi clothed women in the absence of a female colleague? Alert women, affiliated with the Dept. of Athletics, likely recognized this unprofessional medical behavior and reported it to supervisors. A reasonable guess is that concerns were raised but quenched by an institutional culture that failed to respect the concerns of either students or staff or both.

Kate Jacobson

Journalism, 2012

To Lou Anna K. Simon

I'm a Spartan. My entire family is made up of Spartans. I made lifelong friends and memories from my time at MSU, and I wouldn't trade that time for anything. So to see the news that you knew what happened to those poor girls and you did nothing makes me sick. 

I am a rape survivor. No one listened to me. I fought for myself and found healing thanks to my MSU friends and the staff at The State News, where I was editor in chief '11-'12. Do you know how hard it is to not be believed? To be victimized over and over again, to replay that memory so constantly in your head that it becomes a marker of your life? 

There was before rape. There was after rape. And, Lou Anna, after rape is the darkest, coldest, saddest place I've ever been. 

You could've helped those girls. You could've stopped it. You knew. You knew

You did nothing.

So I guess this will be a marker for you too. There was before, and now there is after. I hope the memory of turning a blind eye becomes branded into your soul. I hope it never leaves you. I hope you wake up every single day wondering who you are and how on this Earth this happened - just like those girls have to wake up day after day wondering those same damn questions. 

If we survivors have to bear our scars, I pray to God you feel the sting of the whip too.

Jeffrey Kless

Sociology, 1969

As a 1969 alumnus, I am ashamed, embarrassed and angry over the conduct of numerous individuals in power who failed to perform one of the most important duties they are entrusted with, the protection of an individual or in this case numerous individuals. At the very least, the following persons should be fired and lawsuits filed against them immediately: the president of the university, the head of the police department, the athletic director and the head of the Orthopedics Department who placed the university and or themselves first and foremost. In addition, all of the Trustees should be recalled.

Money received from lawsuits will not fully compensate adequately those injured, for most will carry the mental scars with them until their deaths. Michigan State University will no doubt will be sued for two to three hundred million dollars, loss alumni donations and lose respect as an academic institution all due to a number of individuals who lack basic humanity.

Bekah Zorgdrager

Communications, 2003

Until recently, I was a proud MSU alumna. I believed Spartans had integrity. 

As a freshman, I was informed of my student rights and who I could go to for help. I graduated in 2003 with a BA in Communication and still refer back to some of the things I learned from professors in pursuit of my degree. I read the recent alumni email below with agreement and pride,

“Spartans Will. It’s what’s inside. MSU Spartans are defined by what’s inside each of us: a commitment to something bigger. Working for the common good with uncommon will. We explore endless possibilities of ‘what if?’ And think about tomorrow, today. Working together and crossing disciplines to find new solutions.”

Then yesterday, I read a few of the victim statements shared at that criminal’s sentencing, and I’m the opposite of a proud alumna. 

A counseling fund for victims. Attorneys hired to give statements about Title IX compliance. Empty words of apology.

Is this Spartans Will?

Is this working for the common good with uncommon will?

Is this exploring endless possibilities?

MSU lent its credibility to a child molester for two decades while he freely perpetuated his reign of terror. This crap happens too often to too many. And now it’s in MSU’s front yard. Where’s the Spartans Will? Where’s the uncommon will to push past the way things are into the endless possibilities of the way things could be?

We have a unique and powerful opportunity here to be a different institution, to do better, to be better. To lead the charge in saying “enough is enough” and actually doing something about it.

Over 100 intelligent, strong, brave, articulate women are sharing victim statements in court and even more endured the same abuse. What if MSU invited and paid for as many of these women as will come to spend a week at the Kellogg Center to share their ideas for what could be done to prevent future abuse? MSU employs some of the best social science and other researchers in their respective fields; what if they joined in the week to ask questions, share insights and develop research studies that address moving forward? What if we listened and asked questions and shared ideas and pushed to identify practical change not just for MSU but for all who will listen? What if MSU created an endowment to further research that will prevent sexual abuse and created a board to approve research proposals with at least half of the board made up of the women who have been victimized yet are all brave conquerors in their own right? What if MSU funded opportunities for these women to speak at schools, elite athletic camps and physician groups in order to educate young people and push for change amongst the adults tasked with protecting them?

What if bringing these women together with some of MSU’s best minds produced actionable ideas far better than the sleepless brooding of a formerly proud MSU alumna?

Spartans Will?


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