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MSU Trustee Ferguson: More going on than 'just this Nassar thing'

January 23, 2018
President Simon listens to victims speak during a board of trustees meeting on Dec 15, 2017 at the Hannah Administration Building. Protesters gathered to address the misconduct of MSU’s handling of the Larry Nassar investigation.
President Simon listens to victims speak during a board of trustees meeting on Dec 15, 2017 at the Hannah Administration Building. Protesters gathered to address the misconduct of MSU’s handling of the Larry Nassar investigation. —
Photo by Sylvia Jarrus | The State News

Vice Chair of the MSU Board of Trustees Joel Ferguson spoke on President Lou Anna K. Simon and ex-MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar in a radio interview Tuesday morning.

Ferguson made an appearance on the Lansing radio show “Staudt On Sports,” where host Tim Staudt asked him several questions about Simon and MSU’s handling of the Nassar case.

Ferguson affirmed the strong support of the board behind Simon, sans Trustee Mitch Lyons, who released a statement disagreeing with the board’s vote of confidence.

“The meeting we had the other day was five hours, and talking Lou Anna was 10 minutes,” Ferguson said in the interview. “We had so many other things we were going over, and we unanimously decided that meeting right away that Lou Anna was going to, we were gonna support her staying as the president, because there’s so many more things going at the university than just this Nassar thing.”

Ferguson said the trustees want Simon to stay based on her overall job performance.

“When you go to the basketball game, you walk in that new Breslin, and the person who hustled and who got all those major donors to give money was Lou Anna Simon,” Ferguson said. “There’s just so many things that make up being president of the university that keeps everything moving … This is not about Lou Anna, it’s really about what’s best for Michigan State … Having her in that position is what is best for Michigan State.

When asked if Simon might decide to step down on her own, Ferguson strongly denied the possibility.

“That will not happen, period,” Ferguson said. “She’s a fighter and her overall, what she’s done for this university, she’s not gonna get ran out of there by what somebody else did.”

Shifting to talk about Nassar, Ferguson said the trustees welcome an external investigation by Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office.

“Our senior people were not complicit in what this pervert did,” Ferguson said. “I think the young ladies who’ve been wronged by this person … you can never use money to completely make over people’s pain and suffering, but there’s gonna be something happening in their favor.”

Ferguson said the external investigation can only be good for the university.

“We can’t lose on this investigation,” Ferguson said. “If he makes the investigation and says, ‘oh, I can’t find anything’ that’s great. And if he turns around and points out who’s complicit and whatever, that’s great because we’ll then take action. Can’t lose.”

When Staudt asked if the NCAA might get involved at some point, Ferguson laughed.

“To do what?” Ferguson asked. “This is not Penn State, they were dealing with their football program. … They’re smart enough to know they’re not competent to walk in here on this.”

Ferguson’s office could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.

Ferguson’s full interview on "Staudt On Sports" can be viewed below. Ferguson’s interview begins at 22 minutes and talk about Simon and Nassar begins at 25 minutes.

Following Ferguson’s comments, Lyons, the only trustee thus far to call for Simon's resignation, released another statement. Lyons detailed how the majority of the five hour “work session” from Jan. 19 was “spent on Nassar and how we move forward.”

Another MSU Trustee, Brian Mosallam, added on Twitter agreeing with Lyons a majority of the gathering was spent on Nassar and how to move forward.

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Other topics of discussion included what a succession plan looked like, the Attorney General’s review and the Board of Trustees “seeking outside advise [sic] in exercising their independent oversight role.”

Mosallam also added a comment on Twitter detailing how he didn’t want his comments to overshadow the victim impact statements given by Nassar’s survivors.

Nassar’s sentencing in Ingham County for seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct continued Tuesday, ending right before 4 p.m. Sentencing will continue Wednesday.

Following some criticism, Ferguson issued a statement through his spokesperson, Kelly Rossman-McKinney. Rossman-McKinney does not represent MSU or its Board of Trustees.

"Joel Ferguson deeply regrets the inadvertent comment he made on a local radio program that trivialized the experience of the victims of Larry Nassar," the statement reads. "He recognizes the suffering of these young women and had intended to refer to it as ‘the Nassar tragedy.'"

Editor’s Note: This article was updated at 4:18 p.m. with Lyons and Mosallam’s statements. This article was again updated at 8:44 p.m. 


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