Wednesday, August 12, 2020

What you missed from the Michigan State administration this summer

August 29, 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

Although the majority of students were away from campus this summer, things involving the MSU administration didn't stop happening. Here's what you might have missed over the past few months.

$500 million lawsuit settlement between MSU and survivors of Nassar’s abuse

In May, MSU reached a $500 million lawsuit settlement with the hundreds of survivors of ex-MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse who sued the university in light of their handling of reports regarding abuse by Nassar. 

In a letter addressing the settlement, Interim President John Engler said MSU has "apologized, expressed regret, and pledged to act so that such abuse could never happen again.”

"We have known that for the healing process to really begin, it would require more than apologies and reforms in our clinics," Engler said in the letter. "For the survivors and their families and for the university to truly move forward, we would have to resolve the litigation that resulted from the Nassar crimes."

Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual abuse, posted an official statement on Facebook about the settlement.

“The litigation phase is over, but the fight for change and accountability, the fight to give survivors a voice and protect the next generation, has only just begun,” she said in the statement. “We intend to stand united with, and for, ALL survivors of abuse as we work together towards these goals.” 

At a June 22 Board of Trustees meeting, the board unanimously approved to use general revenue bonds to fund the $500 million litigation settlement between the university and the survivors of Nassar's sexual abuse.

Tuition and state funding will not be used to pay off the settlement, according to Trustee Melanie Foster, who is the chairperson of the finance committee.

University officials said they believe bonding "is the quickest process to establish the settlement fund with least amount of immediate impact on MSU programs and services," according to a press release. 

June 22 Board of Trustees meeting

The June 22 MSU Board of Trustees meeting was met with calls for Interim President John Engler's termination, votes on the budget for the upcoming school year, personnel actions, protests from the MSU community and more.

At the start of the meeting, Trustee Brian Mosallam made a motion to terminate Engler from his position as interim president. Mosallam, Trustee Dianne Byrum, over 100 survivors of Nassar’s sexual abuse and over 1,000 people who signed a Reclaim MSU petition, had called for Engler’s resignation just days before the meeting.

The motion was voted down with a vote of 6-2.

Survivors, their parents, students, faculty and other members of the MSU community continued protest throughout the meeting and many used the public participation time at the beginning to voice their opinions and concerns with the university’s administration.

Some of the board members themselves spoke up at the meeting to defend their support for Engler as interim president. Trustee Mitch Lyons said the board believed Engler was the right person to enact change on MSU's campus and suggested that if the board were to fire Engler, they would have to find another interim president while the search for a permanent president is going on.

"Nobody in their right mind is walking into this hot mess right now," he said.

As the board meeting ended, those protesting shouted, “Shame on you, MSU.”

Presidential search

A university president will be selected and announced in June of 2019, according to a “presidential search timeline” that was laid out during a press conference held by Trustee Dianne Byrum and Trustee Melanie Foster in late June.

According to a press release handed out at the press conference, the presidential search timeline will include listening sessions with stakeholders and the MSU community through October of 2018, will identify candidates and start initial interviews from November of 2018 to January of 2019 and will select and announce a new university president by June of 2019.

Byrum said she and Foster, who are leading the presidential search, will be in contact with student leadership, will hold listening sessions in which the MSU community can attend and will accept comments and suggestions on a presidential search website.

Byrum and Foster announced in a July 19 press release that the university is putting out a request for proposals from firms to lead the presidential search, which is one of the first steps of the presidential search timeline.

Updates on ex-MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar

On June 29, reports showed that Nassar faces six new charges of sexual assault at a Texas gymnastics training center.

On July 25, two of Nassar’s attorneys, Jacqueline McCann and Malaika Ramsey-Heath, filed a motion in Ingham County Circuit Court arguing that Nassar should have a resentencing in Ingham County, as his sentencing was unfair. The motion also argues to have Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, who sentenced Nassar to 40 to 175 years in prison, disqualified from Nassar's case.

According to the motions, Nassar’s attorneys claim Aquilina was biased in Nassar’s sentencing because she publicly identified herself as an advocate for the survivors of Nassar's sexual abuse, gave "repeated indications" prior to Nassar's sentencing hearing that she had already determined to impose the maximum sentence and more.

On August 3, Aquilina denied the motion to disqualify herself from Nassar's case at a hearing.

"He has buyer's remorse," Aquilina said. "He's really seeking a reduction. In time, he's really seeking a second chance."

As of the hearing, Nassar's attorneys are requesting to have the case reviewed by the chief judge. Aquilina will retain the case and she said she will correct any error she has made. 

"The defendant pled guilty, to his own acknowledgement," Aquilina said. "I followed the law. I followed the rules. The sentence was fair. The math doesn't lie. It was done with a logical basis.”

Nassar is currently in a federal prison in Tuscon, Arizona.

He pleaded guilty to seven counts of criminal sexual conduct and was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in Ingham County, pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and was sentenced to 40 to 125 years in Eaton County and was sentenced to 60 years on child pornography charges. 

More than 300 women and one male have come forward as survivors of Nassar's sexual abuse.

Updates on ex-MSU dean William Strampel

Ex-dean of MSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine William Strampel’s criminal case moved to trial after a preliminary hearing on June 5 determined there was enough evidence of misconduct in his work office and fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Strampel faces four criminal charges, including a felony misconduct in the office for using his position to harass, discriminate, sexual proposition and sexually assault female students at MSU, a fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct charge and two counts of willful neglect of duty related to ex-MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. 

Strampel, former boss of Nassar, also retired from his position at the university after signing a retirement agreement on July 5. According to a university press release, the agreement will end the tenure revocation process that Interim President John Engler sought in February. 

Tuition for the 2018-19 academic year

At the June 22 Board of Trustees meeting,  board unanimously voted to implement a tuition freeze for in-state freshmen students and a $360 increase per academic year for in-state and out of state sophomores, juniors and seniors for the 2018-19 school year.  

There will also be a tuition freeze for all undergraduate students in the 2019-20 academic year and a block tuition structure for students who take between 12 and 18 credits, according to the budget presentation shown at the board meeting. 

Engler said that about 17 percent of the budget for the upcoming academic year will go to financial aid. According to the budget presentation shown at the meeting, financial aid will increase by 4.5 percent for the 2018-19 school year.

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