LANSING — In 2016, an investigative report revealed that USA Gymnastics — the governing body of the US Olympic team and one of the largest and most well-known youth sport organizations in the country — had failed to report accusations of abuse and assault made by athletes against coaches. This investigation led to an outpouring of allegations against Dr. Larry Nassar, who has worked in medicine with USA Gymnastics since 1986, serving as its chief medical coordinator beginning in 1996, and who also taught and practiced medicine at Michigan State University since 1997.
Since the first public accusation was made against Nassar in 2016, hundreds of women and girls have come forward sharing their own stories of being sexually molested at the hands of Nassar, many of whom also report having informed adults about this assault but were turned away. At least 14 officials at MSU were notified of Nassar’s sexual misconduct, including MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon, who, in 2014, was informed that a police report and a Title IX complaint had been filed against a physician with the university. As a result, many are now calling on Simon to resign or be removed from her post as president of the university, including 33 state representatives who signed on to House Resolution 234 today.
“As leader of the university, President Simon is inherently responsible for perpetuating a sick culture that allowed a predator to continue molesting new young women and girls while also forcing his past victims to endure their suffering in silence. Her blatant failure to protect students from Nassar’s abuse proves that she is unfit to continue as president of the university, and must resign or be removed immediately,” said state Rep. Adam Zemke (D-Ann Arbor), sponsor of HR 234. “Her lack of accountability and compassion for what happened to those girls is reprehensible, and if she felt any shred of the great responsibility she bears for these victims’ suffering, she would step down. If we are to have any hope of moving past this national embarrassment and creating a culture where all victims are heard and action is taken against abusers, then MSU must have a change in leadership. Simon must go.”
In November 2017, Nassar pleaded guilty to seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in Ingham County and three counts in Eaton County for assaulting female athletes who sought medical treatment from him. On Tuesday, Jan. 16, what turned into a six-day sentencing trial began, culminating in Nassar being sentenced today to 40-175 years in prison for first-degree criminal sexual conduct. During the trial, the judge and Nassar heard from more than 150 women and girls who gave their victim impact statements and detailed the confusion, trauma and anger they have experienced as a result of his abuse, as well as MSU’s failure to protect them.
Last Thursday, Jan. 18, House Democratic Leader Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) and state Sen. Curtis Hertel, Jr. (D-East Lansing) called on Simon to step down. This came after already having called for a legislative investigation to determine what exactly MSU knew about the allegations of sexual abuse and assault made against Nassar prior to the 2016 revelation. House Speaker Tom Leonard (R-DeWitt) later echoed those calls for a legislative investigation and tasked the chairs of the House Law and Justice Committee and Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee to begin that process. The NCAA has also noted that it sent a letter of inquiry to the university regarding any potential rules violations that may have occurred related to the assaults.
“The courage and resolve of the survivors has been truly inspirational,” said state Rep. Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills). “Unfortunately, President Simon has either been asleep at the switch or willfully ignorant of what’s been occurring. It’s critical that an investigation identify all university personnel who bear responsibility for failing to stop Nassar’s predatory behavior. In order for that investigation to have any credibility, a new interim president must be appointed immediately.”