Thursday, February 27, 2020

Second-wave Nassar survivors, community members express concerns during board meeting

June 21, 2019
Nassar survivor Lana Horning speaks to the MSU Board of Trustees in tears during the public participation segment of a board meeting on June 21, 2019 at the Hannah Administration Building.
Nassar survivor Lana Horning speaks to the MSU Board of Trustees in tears during the public participation segment of a board meeting on June 21, 2019 at the Hannah Administration Building. —
Photo by Matt Zubik | The State News

The subject of public participation at Friday’s Board of Trustees meeting related to concerns of the intermediate Healing Assistance Fund for second-wave survivors of Larry Nassar's abuse. The board has faced criticism for not placing discussion for compensation to second-wave Nassar survivors on the meeting agenda. 

Lana Horning, a second-wave Nassar survivor, mentioned that she could no longer do what she loved because Nassar abused her at age of 11.

“I dreamed of becoming a teacher. I studied hard and accomplished my goal,” Horning said. “But once I finally shared a classroom with children, it was a constant trigger of anxiety and emotional distress because the children were the age I was when I was abused.”

Having heard victim impact statements from her former teammates, she developed more confidence to go public with her story.

“I have not wanted to speak or tell my story because I felt embarrassed that I would be judged," she said.

Horning said she has felt rejected from MSU because of their treatment towards her.

"MSU made the fear of rejection, shame and of being ignored a reality once again," Horning said.

She said she is hopeful for incoming President Samuel Stanley, who stated he wants to listen to survivors.

Horning said “it was like a breath of fresh air” to hear Stanley wants to meet with survivors. She said she feels confidence that survivors might finally get recognition.

Valerie von Frank spoke on behalf of the Parents of Sister Survivors Engage (POSSE).

Von Frank first addressed Trustee Dianne Byrum.

“Dianne Byrum, you said ‘the page was turning and it’s a new chapter for the university.' It’s not a new chapter for us," von Frank said. "It’s a new chapter for who? For you at MSU? Your new president who was in East Lansing for a couple of days declared that healing is underway. ... Your tears and apologies mean absolutely nothing when you break your promises. You get headlines with them and you continue to furnish your image, and we get broken promises.”

Von Frank said survivors have had to “beg” the Board of Trustees for the Healing Assistance Fund since late October. She was critical of the trustees for allowing former interim President Engler to shut down the fund instead of implementing the suspension the board had previously announced.

Since then, the Board of Trustees have announced an intermediate healing fund.

Von Frank said that survivors “don’t control their trauma and its aftermath" and sympathize with those who came forward at different times.

“Here we are again, six months after that ‘soon’ and nothing on the agenda," von Frank said.

Trustee Brian Mosallam interrupted Von Frank, stating the original healing fund is still in place.

Von Frank said that she has had multiple phone calls with Mosallam to talk about the new terms and conditions of the healing fund.

“We’re just waiting. We’re waiting for you to take action," she said.

MSU has recently been awarded the Golden Padlock as the most secretive publicly-funded agency in the nation.

David Ware — MSU alumnus — accused the Board of Trustees of doing “exactly the opposite of what was intended.”

“You have damaged the reputation of Michigan State, as the Padlock award shows," Ware said.

Brian Conway — who spoke on behalf of his daughter — said there needs to be more effort at the university to help survivors heal.

“While there have been many great press opportunities to talk about how great you’re doing, there has not been what I think is a real effort to help these victims move forward," Conway said. "A real effort to place closure on these issues.”

Conway said he challenges the Board of Trustees to fully consider funding toward helping second-wave survivors.

Following the meeting, Byrum said, "Each survivor is unique and it’s our goal to have fair settlements with each and every one.”

The board announced they will be conducting an independent investigation into Nassar’s abuse with the McDermott Will & Emery law firm. The board chose the firm with help from three Nassar survivors.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has criticized the investigation. She said MSU "lacks the credibility necessary to conduct a legitimate investigation" in light of the university keeping thousands of documents from the Attorney General's Office on terms of attorney-client privilege.

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