Michigan State president Lou Anna Simon resigns amid Larry Nassar scandal
The university's president steps down with pressure mounting for her removal
The latest domino to fall in the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal is Michigan State University president Lou Anna Simon, who announced her resignation in a statement published Wednesday.
Simon's resignation comes on the same day that Nassar -- the disgraced doctor who treated athletes at Michigan State in addition to serving as team doctor for USA Gymnastics --. More than 150 women said that the 54-year-old Nassar sexually assaulted them under the guise of medical treatment, a pattern of behavior that the doctor exhibited for years without repercussions.
As Nassar's sentencing hearing carried on over the past few weeks, Simon has faced mounting pressure to step down thanks to gut-wrenching testimonies from those who were victimized by Nassar -- including current and former Michigan State student athletes. Some used their time in court to question why the university leadership failed to stop Nassar's heinous behavior.
Despite the mounting pressure on the school's leadership, MSU's board of trustees voted last week to stand behind Simon, citing her integrity and -- among other things -- her ability to fundraise.
However, as several organizations, including the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics, have been promising to make significant changes in order to fix the toxic culture Nassar left behind, it appears that the pressure convinced Simon to resign from her post at Michigan State, where she has worked since the mid-1970s.
From her resignation letter, which was posted to the school's website Wednesday night:
As Nassar's legal journey to prison was drawing to a close, more and more negative attention was focused on Michigan State University, and on me. I am pleased that statements have been made by Mr. Fitzgerald and Board members about my integrity and the fact that there is no cover-up.
As tragedies are politicized, blame is inevitable. As president, it is only natural that I am the focus of this anger. I understand, and that is why I have limited my personal statements. Throughout my career, I have worked very hard to put Team MSU first. Throughout my career, I have consistently and persistently spoken and worked on behalf of Team MSU. I have tried to make it not about me. I urge those who have supported my work to understand that I cannot make it about me now. Therefore, I am tendering my resignation as president according to the terms of my employment agreement.
Despite her insistence that the university did not knowingly cover up Nassar's abuse, recent investigations have led to many questions regarding the validity of those claims.
Last week, the Detroit News ran an expose that found the university complicit in keeping Nassar's abuse quiet. According to the investigation, Simon was one of at least 14 university officials who were alerted to claims of abuse by the doctor before his arrest, though Simon claims that she was unaware that it was Nassar who had been accused.
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