Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., addressed reporters in a press teleconference on Wednesday. During the call, Stabenow took questions about her outlook on MSU, an institution that continues to grapple with repercussions from ex-MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.
Stabenow joined Nassar survivors, MSU students and community members in expressing her concerns with how MSU Interim President John Engler and the Board of Trustees have conducted themselves in the months following Nassar’s criminal sentencing in Ingham and Eaton County.
“Unfortunately, I don’t believe John Engler is the right person to lead MSU through this very difficult time,” Stabenow said.
Stabenow’s comments follow in the wake of allegations that Engler, in a meeting with Nassar survivor Kaylee Lorincz, offered her money in exchange for her to settle her civil suit against the university. Lorincz detailed her allegations in a public comment at the most recent Board of Trustees meeting.
"Mr. Engler then looked directly at me and asked, 'Right now, if I wrote you a check for $250,000, would you take it?'" Lorincz said during the board meeting. "When I explained that it's not about the money for me, and that I just want to help, he said, 'Well, give me a number.'"
Stabenow said she was disturbed by the nature of Lorincz’s allegation.
“I was really outraged to read the report that President Engler would’ve tried to basically settle the case with one of the survivors in a meeting with her,” Stabenow said.
Stabenow said members of the Board of Trustees and Engler himself met with her and other politicians in February in Washington D.C., where the university’s handling of the crisis came under intense scrutiny.
“At first, when President Engler came into D.C. and met with the Michigan delegation, I pressed him to sit down with the survivors and hear their concerns and listen and develop a way to have a healing process,” Stabenow said.
She said Engler’s meeting and his alleged response to Lorincz were not of the nature of the meetings she'd suggested he conduct.
“The kind of meeting I was urging certainly was not that kind of a meeting — to press someone to drop a lawsuit — but to rather listen and have respect for what has happened,” Stabenow said.
Stabenow talked about the steps she said she believes the MSU administration must take to ensure the concerns of the Nassar survivors are adequately addressed.
“I think they need to be listened to,” Stabenow said. “What happened is horrific and it was over a long period of time. And really it’s unfortunately part of the system ... I think they should be listened to."
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