Six days ago, the board of trustees for Michigan State University voted unanimously to stand behind its president Lou Anna Simon despite the school’s failure to address molestation accusations against Larry Nassar for years. Late yesterday, the board changed its tune. Simon offered her resignation after Nassar got a 40-175 year sentence, and suddenly the board discovered that “it is now time for change”:
Michigan State University’s long-serving president resigned Wednesday night in the wake of the Larry Nassar sex-abuse scandal, saying, “As tragedies are politicized, blame is inevitable.”
Lou Anna Simon, who had been credited with building the public university into a formidable academic center bolstered by fundraising and research prowess, stepped down Wednesday in the face of a wave of public outrage. …
“We agree with Dr. Simon that it is now time for change,” Breslin said. “President Simon has served with distinction as MSU’s president for 13 years and has been a constant presence at the university for more than 40 years. She literally has devoted her entire professional life to this institution, and more than anyone else has helped make MSU a national and international leader in higher education.”
The writing has been on the wall for Simon since the Detroit News first published its lengthy report on what MSU had been told about Nassar, and when. Kim Kozlowski detailed at least one complaint that hit Simon’s desk in 2014, which went nowhere until later revelations forced the school, the local police, and USA Gymnastics to reinvestigate Nassar. Nassar’s victims have lashed out at Simon, including one dramatic rebuke in the hallway outside the courtroom last week, after which Simon decided not to return to the court.
It was the very next day that MSU’s board of trustees decided to offer its unanimous and inexplicable endorsement of Simon, a move that will likely have them explaining why they shouldn’t be the next to go. One trustee, Mitch Lyons, went public the next day to deny that it was unanimous in the first place and to call on Simon to resign. Lawmakers in Michigan had already been calling for Simon’s job, and they’ll likely look closely at the entire leadership at Michigan State in the near future.
Don’t expect the shoes to stop dropping, either, and it might be time for a legislative look at this scandal in Washington too. Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins argues that the organizations that were supposed to protect these young athletes carried the national imprimatur of the US in the Olympic Games. Shouldn’t Congress investigate whether that imprimatur should be withdrawn?
A national organization with the initials USA on it forced young girls to submit to pelvic exams by a child molester. Literally hundreds of them were isolated in mandatory “camps” and were repeatedly assaulted by a barehanded pedophile for years on end, while nobody cared to notice that no decent doctor would perform such an exam on young girls, much less ungloved. Where in the fresh red hell is an independent investigation into USA Gymnastics, and why isn’t Congress threatening to smash the U.S. Olympic Committee’s charter into pieces with a gavel over this?
It’s only the worst sex abuse scandal in the history of sports — and maybe in the history of this country. USA Gymnastics not only allowed serial pedophile Larry Nassar unsupervised access to the scores of girls in its charge over 30 years, it required them to submit to him and his utterly unjustifiable vaginal examinations. There was no saying, “I don’t like this doctor. I want my own.” The organizations systematically deprived them of any right to say no, to ask for alternate treatment. It makes the Hollywood rapes look principled. …
Without a full, meaningful investigation of how Nassar was shielded by these institutions for 30 years despite the most obvious medical misconduct, the testimony of the more than 160 women over the last week will be for nothing. Otherwise there only will be another abuser after him. The USOC and USA Gymnastics and their persistent cultures of evasion and avoidance and enforced silence have to be torn down. The people in charge of this horror chamber must be exposed and punished. And replaced by real leaders. And it’s probably going to take the pressure of a Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) or a Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) to do it, to remind the USOC and USA Gymnastics that they exist solely by virtue of an act of Congress.
Most crimes are best handled by state and local authorities, but the congressional charter for the USOC and USA Gymnastics put some responsibility for oversight on Capitol Hill’s doorstep. However, I doubt that it will take too much pressure for Congress to open investigations into the operations of the USOC and USAG; there’s so much outrage now over the scope and depth of this depravity that there are plenty of political incentives to act, let alone the moral imperatives that Jenkins lays out so well.
Now that the trial and sentencing of Nassar have been concluded, Congress can act without fear of stepping on a criminal justice proceeding. And it should, and both the USOC and USAG should be forced to explain how they let these athletes get caught up in Nassar’s web for decades. It’s not just MSU that needs a housecleaning amongst its leadership.
And not long after Jenkin’s column hit today…
This week, Larry Nassar was sentenced to 40+ years for sexually abusing over 150 young women. @SenBlumenthal & I are demanding answers from @USAGym, U.S. Olympic Committee & @michiganstateu regarding their systemic failures & their plans to protect athletes from sexual abuse. pic.twitter.com/Urmji202Wc
— Senator Jerry Moran (@JerryMoran) January 25, 2018
Good. Don’t be surprised if one or more House committees follow suit, too.
The Detroit News offered readers a reminder of the damage done — and of the courage it took to stop it. Let this sink in on Capitol Hill, but even more so in all of the organizations that enabled this predator.
The front page of the @freep following the sentencing of disgraced former gymnastics doctor:
— NBC News (@NBCNews) January 25, 2018