Michigan State president Lou Anna Simon has resigned amid rampant criticism for her handling of the Larry Nassar case.
"As tragedies are politicized, blame is inevitable," Simon wrote in her resignation letter. "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. ... 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."
The decision comes after pressure was mounting on her to step down from the student newspaper, university trustees and Michigan lawmakers who view a change in leadership at Michigan State as necessary after such a painful chapter.
Along with his duties as doctor for the USA Gymnastics national team, Nassar ran a clinic and gymnastics club at Michigan State, where he was a faculty member for decades. Nassar sexually abused more than 150 girls under the guise of medical treatment during his tenure with USAG and Michigan State, and was sentenced to 175 years of prison for his sexual abuse on Wednesday. He was also previously sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for possession of child pornography.
While the media attention in the Nassar case was initially focused on his abuse while working for the national gymnastics team, Michigan State's potential culpability came into focus when The Detroit Newsran a daming piece on Jan. 18 which claims victims of Nassar's abuse reported his misconduct to at least 14 Michigan State university representatives, including Simon.
In the expose, multiple victims accuse the university of not doing nearly enough to investigate claims of abuse, with some even going as far as to say the university made them feel shameful for reporting his misconduct at all. In particular, Kathie Klages, a gymnastics coach who retired from the university last year, has been accused of actively trying to cover up claims of abuse against Nassar.
Current or former members of the Michigan State gymnastics, volleyball, rowing, softball and track and field programs are among the 156 victims who testified or had statements read at Nassar's seven-day sentencing hearing, which concluded Wednesday.
Simon told The Detroit News that she encouraged the claims against Nassar to be pursued fully after she was made aware of a Title IX report against him.
“I was informed that a sports medicine doctor was under investigation,” Simon told the paper. “I told people to play it straight up, and I did not receive a copy of the report. That’s the truth.”
Simon, who is also the executive chairwoman of the NCAA, had been president of Michigan State since 2003.