Friday, October 15, 2021

Community reacts to ex-MSU President being charged in Nassar investigation

November 20, 2018
Protesters are seen through the reflection the Hannah Administration Building's doors during the MARCH on Hannah on Feb. 6, 2018. Protesters marched from Erickson Hall to the Hannah Administration Building and had a list of demands, including the resignation of the Board of Trustees and Interim President Engler. (Nic Antaya | The State News)
Protesters are seen through the reflection the Hannah Administration Building's doors during the MARCH on Hannah on Feb. 6, 2018. Protesters marched from Erickson Hall to the Hannah Administration Building and had a list of demands, including the resignation of the Board of Trustees and Interim President Engler. (Nic Antaya | The State News) —

Former MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon was charged Tuesday with two felony counts and two misdemeanor counts for lying to police. 

This is the newest update in the ongoing investigation into the university’s handling of sexual assault reports involving ex-MSU doctor Larry Nassar.  

If convicted, Simon could face up to four years in prison. The MSU community reacted to this news with surprise and concern. 

“I honestly would’ve never saw this coming," Alex McDougall, a fifth-year marketing student, said. "You would like to think that the president of the school would at least be honest about her mistakes—what she had to do with it—instead of have to lie about it. But, she gets what she deserves, I guess."

Hours after Nassar — who sexually abused over 400 women and girls — was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison, Simon resigned. Criticized for the university’s inaction and its handling of reports of Nassar’s serial abuse, Simon's resignation came after calls for her to step down echoed across the state. 

Simon is the third person, following William Strampel and Kathie Klages, to be charged by the Michigan Attorney General’s Office in its investigation into MSU.

"I don't want to know how deep this goes, but it needs to come out," Associated Students of MSU representative Colin Wiebrecht said. "And it's going to keep coming out." 

Members of the community expressed concerns with how the charges and the investigation will impact how the university moves forward. For example, in regards to the eventual selection of a permanent president for the university. 

"The investigation is ongoing and it seems to be very important that whoever applies for president of MSU—that it should be an external candidate,"  Andaluna Borcila, a James Madison professor and member of Reclaim MSU, said. "Because we do not know the results of an ongoing investigation. I have more thoughts, but this is what struck me when I saw this news."  

Borcila brought up the former president's charges for discussion at the University Council meeting on Tuesday. The University Council "brings together MSU faculty, student, and administration representatives to discuss issues that involve the entire University."

Some members of the University Council were not aware of the news, and the chairs leading the Tuesday meeting, including the provost, did not address it. 

"We've had a history in that past of not really talking about important things that have just come up as a community," Borcila said.

Simon's specific charges include two counts of lying to a peace officer in a violent crime investigation, a four-year felony, and two counts of lying to a peace officer in a four year or more crime investigation, a high-court misdemeanor with a maximum of two years, Eaton County Trial Courts Administrator Beryl Frenger confirmed.

"I was more surprised that she had been charged, honestly, than I was about the fact that she had lied," Wiebrecht said. "You can go back to [Simon's] statement when she resigned. It was all about her and how it's been deeply troubling and difficult for her — and little to nothing about the fact that her actions had consequences for the survivors. And if you look at the survivors reactions, they're very pleased that she's finally apparently being charged for lying." 

Nassar survivors including Lindsey Lemke, who is a student at MSU, shared their thoughts on social media.  

MSU Spokesperson Emily Guerrant also issued a statement on the charges.

“We are aware of the charges brought today against former President Simon," Guerrant said in her statement. "She is taking an immediate leave of absence, without pay, to focus on her legal situation."

The Lansing State Journal reported that according to the Attorney General's Office, investigators have interviewed more than 500 people, including Nassar survivors, MSU faculty and other members of the community. The investigation is ongoing. 

"If this is all true, then who knew about it? That she was lying? Because if others knew that she was lying, that's even more troubling and it also just brings into focus the fact that sexual assault goes deeper than Nassar here," Wiebrecht said. "While this is about Nassar, it just exposes the culture even more. It's so deeply rooted that the former president, apparently, was lying to police about what she knew when. And that's horrifying to me." 

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Simon is scheduled to be arraigned on Nov. 26 at 11:30 a.m. in Eaton County. 

State News staff reporter Jonathan LeBlanc contributed to this report.

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