Thursday, October 29, 2020

Interim President John Engler testifies before Senate subcommittee

July 24, 2018
<p>Interim President John Engler speaks during the meeting on July 17, 2018, at the Hannah Administration Building. Photo by Matt Schmucker.&nbsp;</p>

Interim President John Engler speaks during the meeting on July 17, 2018, at the Hannah Administration Building. Photo by Matt Schmucker. 

Photo by Matt Schmucker | The State News

Interim President John Engler appeared before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance and Data Security on Tuesday to testify about the actions taken by MSU in light of ex-MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar's sexual abuse.

The subcommittee's hearing, titled "Strengthening and Empowering U.S. Amateur Athletes: Moving Forward with Solutions," focused on the changes being made by the United States Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics and MSU in order to "protect Olympic and amateur athletes from abuse" and to examine the reforms that have been implemented so far by these organizations.

Interim President Engler, USA Gymnastics President Kerry Perry, acting CEO of the United States Olympic Committee Susanne Lyons and Chairman of the Athletes' Advisory Council Han Xiao all testified before the subcommittee. 

Engler's testimony

In his testimony, Engler listed several actions MSU has taken "since Nassar's crimes were discovered:

  • Providing assistance to survivors
  • Removing those who enabled Nassar
  • Protecting patients and improving patient care
  • Enhancing student-athlete medical care
  • Improving student counseling and psychiatric services
  • Strengthening protections for youth participants in campus programs
  • Enhancing Title IX policies and communications
  • Convening the MSU Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct Expert Advisory Workgroup
  • Creating an Office for Civil Rights and Title IX Education and Compliance 
  • Strengthening mandatory reporting obligations
  • Improving investigations of sexual assault reports
  • Creating an Office of Enterprise Risk Management, Ethics and Compliance and establishing a chief compliance officer 

"We have always understood that the settlement is only part of the needed response," Engler said in his testimony. "From the moment that I arrived at MSU, we moved decisively to make the organizational changes necessary to ensure that a monster like Nassar could never again hide on our campus. We are working to prevent sexual misconduct on and off our campus and to create a safer and more respectful community for all who attend, work at, or visit the university."

Engler said that the most important change MSU has made on campus is accountability.

"We have to hold those responsible for ensuring the safety of our students accountable for their actions and results," Engler said.

Questions to Engler

Several senators questioned Engler about what has been done in order to ensure the safety of students at MSU in light of Nassar's abuse.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., asked Engler about the alleged encounter between himself and survivor Kaylee Lorincz.

Lorincz alleged that Engler tried to coerce her into settling the lawsuit between the over 300 survivors of Nassar's sexual abuse and the university in a meeting without her lawyer present. Lorincz also alleged that Engler had tried to offer her monetary sum of $250,000 to settle the lawsuit. 

Engler denied that a conversation involving $250,000 ever happened and said it would be "silly" to try to settle a lawsuit with only one survivor present. 

Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., also questioned Engler. 

Peters brought up the decision to appoint Bill Beekman as MSU's permanent athletic director after Engler said an internal candidate wasn't going to be picked. He also addressed a letter signed by over 120 survivors that called for Engler's termination as interim president.

After asking Engler if he would accept the position as MSU's permanent president if it were offered to him, Engler said that there is a national search going on and that he is not a candidate. 

According to a press conference announcing the timeline for the search for the university's permanent president, Engler will not be involved in the search process. 

Survivors of Nassar's abuse

Before the hearing, several survivors of Nassar's abuse and senators spoke at a press conference. At the conference, U.S. senators said they want to ensure that nothing like Nassar's abuse ever happens again.

The hearing in full can be viewed on the subcommittee's website here.

Engler's testimony is attached. 

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