John Engler was a controversial interim president, even before his appointment.
When reports broke that Engler was the MSU Board of Trustees’ unanimously choice to temporarily replace former President Lou Anna K. Simon, faculty immediately objected to his candidacy, threatening to vote for the resignation of the board if they appointed him.
Months of controversial comments, actions and decisions later, Engler submitted his resignation Wednesday night. Engler’s departure followed another controversial statement made by Engler: This time, he told the Detroit News some survivors of Larry Nassar’s abuse were “enjoying” their time “in the spotlight.”
Here’s a brief history of the times Engler sparked outrage from the MSU community:
Jan. 30, 2018—The MSU Steering Committee releases a statement threatening to vote no confidence in the MSU Board of Trustees if former Michigan Gov. John Engler is appointed interim president. The committee stated Engler had no academic leadership experience and the board ignored its recommendations when selecting him.
Jan. 31, 2018—Engler is appointed as MSU’s interim president after Simon’s resignation. The MSU Steering Committee voted no confidence in the Board of Trustees after Engler was appointed. Students participated in a sit-in at the Hannah Administration building, demanding a town meeting with the MSU community
Feb. 2, 2018—Students, staff and faculty gather at the Rock at Farm Lane for the March for Transparency to protest a lack of visibility from the university administration after Engler's appointment.
April 13, 2018—At a Board of Trustees meeting, survivor Kaylee Lorincz claims Engler tried to settle her civil lawsuit against the university by offering her $250,000 during a meeting without her lawyer present.
"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. "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.'"
April 18, 2018—In emails sent to the MSU Board of Trustees, Engler's special counsel supposedly called survivor Kaylee Lorincz’s allegation of Engler attempting to settle her civil lawsuit without her lawyer present "false news," according to a report from the Detroit Free Press.
April 20, 2018—Debbie Stabenow joined Nassar survivors, MSU students and other members of the community in expressing her concerns with how Engler and the Board of Trustees 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.
April 23, 2018—Students, survivors and other members of the community rally to call for the Board of Trustees and Engler to resign at the Rally for Resignations.
June 15, 2018—Trustees Brian Mosallam and Dianne Byrum call for Engler’s resignation after a Chronicle of Higher Education report detailed emails in which Engler suggested his critics were using survivors of Nassar’s abuse, specifically survivor Rachael Denhollander, to stir up outrage against the university and that Denhollander would be getting "kickbacks" from her attorney, John C. Manly.
June 19, 2018—After Mosallam and Byrum call for Engler’s resignation, 120 Nassar survivors call for Engler to resign and for select members of the Board of Trustees to force him to resign in a letter. Survivors wrote that Engler has "failed miserably" and leaders at the university have failed to listen to their concerns.
June 21, 2018—Engler apologizes to survivors and the MSU community in a letter after his comments about "teal shit." Teal is the national color of sexual assault awareness.
June 22, 2018—Mosallam motions to terminate Engler as interim president at the June 22 Board of Trustees meeting. The motion was voted down 6-2.
July 24, 2018—Engler testifies before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance and Data Security regarding the actions taken by MSU in light of Nassar's sexual abuse. Engler denied that a conversation involving $250,000 ever happened between he and survivor Kaylee Lorincz and said it would be "silly" to try to settle a lawsuit with only one survivor present.
Aug. 24, 2018—The State News obtains and publishes the original 2018 alumni magazine. Engler is criticized for scrapping the survivor-centric issue for an issue rarely mentioning Nassar by name and featuring an interview with himself, in which he praised the university.
Nov. 8, 2018—Kelly Tebay and Brianna Scott are elected new MSU trustees. While they are critical of Engler and believe he never should have been appointed, they agreed at an October debate that they would not move to fire Engler at the time.
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Dec. 4, 2018—The State News obtains an email stating Engler would end the Healing Assistance Fund, despite being advised not to by a sexual misconduct advisory workgroup he created. The fund was established in December 2017 to provide survivors of Nassar’s abuse with resources related to counseling and mental health services, but was suspended in light of an investigation into fraudulent claims. In Oct. 2018, MSU Police said Nassar survivors had not made any fraudulent claims.
Dec. 21, 2018—Independent Counsel William Forsyth holds a press conference and gives an update on his investigation into MSU’s handling of the Nassar case. In an often-scathing address, he called out the university for a lack of cooperation and transparency. In his Nov. 27 interview with The State News, Engler claimed charges brought against former MSU president Lou Anna K. Simon signaled the end of the investigation. When asked why he said this, MSU spokesperson Emily Guerrant said in a statement, “We believed the investigation had concluded.”
Jan. 8, 2019—Thousands sign a petition to reopen the Healing Assistance Fund, including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, five out of eight trustees, donors and many Nassar survivors. ASMSU previously voted to support the reopening of the fund, that was closed by Engler, as well.
Jan. 9, 2019—Byrum and Mosallam, who voted to fire Engler, are the only nominees for chair. The board elects Byrum chair, and rebukes Engler by voting to create new healing fund.
Jan. 16, 2019—Engler resigns, effective Jan. 23 in a 11-page resignation letter. His resignation comes after numerous calls for his removal from both within and outside of the university. Before his resignation, the board scheduled an open meeting for 8 a.m. Thursday to discuss Engler’s future at the university. Engler’s resignation and a possible replacement is to be reviewed at the meeting.
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