Whitmer: Trustee Perles, whole Board should resign
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer called for MSU Trustee George Perles and the rest of the Board of Trustees to resign amid allegations that he obstructed an investigation into Larry Nassar’s abuse at a rally with the MSU College Democrats at Wells Hall on Tuesday.
A lawsuit filed in federal court last week alleged that Nassar raped a 17-year-old girl in 1992 and Perles intervened in an investigation of the allegations, leading to the complaint being dropped. Whitmer said as an East Lansing resident and MSU graduate, she's struggled watching her university handle that allegation and others with a lack of transparency.
“Here’s what I know: as we watch all the conversation play out, we’ve not had the justice that the survivors merit. ... I know that in order for this university to have integrity on the other side we need a full, thorough, independent investigation,” Whitmer said. “We need to know the facts. I believe it merits cleaning house, and I called on the whole board to resign early on, and I stand by that. I don’t believe that we’ve gotten to the bottom of the story, I don’t believe the survivors have gotten justice.”
Democratic congressional candidate Elissa Slotkin, who is running against incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Michigan, expressed a similar sentiment. She said MSU "has not figured out and charted a true, clear, strategic and transparent way forward on dealing with these kinds of allegations."
"The first step is making sure that we have the procedures in place so that when people come forward with things like this in the future, there is an accountable, transparent process. We have been missing that," Slotkin said. "Until people are clear on that, on what the new process is, we’re not done with getting healthy and charting a new way forward.
"In terms of the specific trustee, I would just say – and I’ve said all along when it comes to the unfolding crisis with Nassar – that when any leader and their leadership becomes so distracting that it’s actually preventing the mission of the organization they care about from moving forward, they should do the honorable thing and resign. I said the same thing about Lou Anna Simon and I think the same thing goes now for this latest information about this trustee.”
The issue of sexual assault on a national level was discussed at the rally as well. Whitmer said that she is “horrified” at how the U.S. Senate is handling allegations that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford in high school.
“When I see the rhetoric around this Kavanaugh nomination, I am seething angry. I go right back to that place where I was a survivor of sexual assault. I go right back to the rock last year, standing with Nassar survivors, and I am right there once again right now,” Whitmer said. “I am horrified that they are denigrating this doctor (Blasey Ford) who has come forward to share her story in the light of all the ugliest pressure in the world.”
Whitmer, who wore a teal ribbon to show her support for survivors of sexual assault, was joined by her running mate Garlin Gilchrist II at the event. Regarding MSU's search for a permanent president, Gilchrist said that one characteristic is more important than all others: they should be somebody who will listen to Nassar survivors.
“The most important quality in a leader is someone who listens and who will be responsive, and I don’t think that’s been the case in the leadership of the interim president,” Gilchrist said. “They certainly need to have somebody who reflects those values.”
MSU students had the opportunity to share what they are looking for in the next president Monday, during the first of several planned input sessions.
All three candidates emphasized the importance of mobilizing young voters in November, saying that this election could have lasting consequences.
“The reason we need you to participate in the political process, in the voting process, in the governing process is because you as students, you as leaders, you as Michiganders need to have a seat at the table as we build policy and make decisions,” Gilchrist said. “That’s what inclusive government looks like and feels like. That’s what I want you to be a part of.”