Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Notable figures, over 1,000 others sign petition to restart Nassar fund

January 8, 2019
<p>Nassar survivors and their supporters and allies hold up signs during the Board of Trustees meeting Dec. 14, 2018 at the Hannah Administration Building.</p>

Nassar survivors and their supporters and allies hold up signs during the Board of Trustees meeting Dec. 14, 2018 at the Hannah Administration Building.

Photo by Matt Schmucker | The State News

An online petition to restart the Healing Assistance Fund has reached over 1,000 signatures from notable figures, Michigan residents and members of the MSU community.

Following MSU making the payment on a $500 million settlement with more than 300 women who sued the university after being assaulted by ex-MSU doctor Larry Nassar, the fund — which was established to provide Nassar survivors with resources needed for counseling services — was closed.  

Among those calling for it to be reopened are Trustees Brian Mosallam, Dianne Byrum, Brianna Scott and Kelly Tebay — who publicly disagreed with Interim President John Engler's decision to discontinue the Healing Assistance Fund in a statement that was released following the news. 

Last week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and recently-appointed Trustee Nancy Schlichting also signed the petition calling for the reinstatement of the fund. 

Other supporters include former Gov. Jennifer Granholm, state representative Julie Brixie, Ingham County Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, former Assistant Attorney General — who prosecuted Nassar — Angie Povilaitis, Rachael Denhollander and many more survivors of Nassar's abuse. 

The effort

This online appeal — organized by Kathy Haselmaier, a Michigan Technological University alumna, after she became frustrated with the administration — quickly gained attention and support. 

The effort is called "MSU Honor," and calls for the university to "honor the commitment" of the Healing Assistance Fund, established last December. It was later suspended in July due to an investigation into fraudulent claims, none of which were made by survivors of Nassar's abuse, MSU Police confirmed. 

“I didn’t go to MSU, but all the people I know who went to MSU are honorable people. And the reputation of MSU is not honorable right now," Haselmaier said. "It's just my hope that if the decision-making would be better, the reputation of MSU being an honorable place and the alumni being honorable people will be restored.” 

The online appeal has been taking signatures on its website, which was set up by Haselmaier during the first week of break. Supporters are leaving comments by their names. 

"There are more survivors than the few hundred involved in the civil litigation," Nassar survivor Nicole Reeb wrote on the appeal. "Many of my sister survivors are delaying or stopping treatment they desperately need. MSU, when are you going to do just one thing right?"

As of Monday, the online appeal also noted that more than 100 supporters indicated their donations to MSU are on hold. 

The response

The trustees who signed the petition have responded to community concerns with talks of establishing a new fund. 

"Please honor the MSU commitment to the Healing Assistance Fund by establishing a new fund with better management and oversight, clear and defined classes of those it is meant to help and specifying a term for which it will be available, if not permanently," Scott's comment read. 

In response to this effort, MSU Spokesperson Emily Guerrant said MSU had nothing to add beyond what Engler said about the fund at the last Board of Trustees meeting

At the meeting, Engler said in negotiations with 11 different law firms representing Nassar survivors, the terms and agreements have been "complied with now fully and that did not include any negotiations on behalf of the survivors to continue any additional payments outside the settlement."

Even with over 1,000 signatures—and more coming in — Haselmaier said she still feels it's not enough to communicate to the university that many are against the decision to close the fund. She said she hopes that changes as people becomes more aware of the effort.

Nassar survivor Morgan McCaul said she hopes the appeal is a wake up call. 

“This is a life or death issue,” McCaul said. “I hope that there is momentum behind this, and that we can get some real policy change initiated.” 

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