(EAST LANSING, Mich.) — Michigan State University Interim President John Engler was brought on to clean up the mess left in the wake of the Larry Nassar scandal. Instead, with less than five months on the job, calls are growing for him to resign after private emails showed him criticizing one of Nassar’s victims.
Engler wrote in an email in April to the president’s special counsel, Carol Viventi, that survivors were being “manipulated by trial lawyers” and Rachel Denhollander, the first gymnast to go public with her claims of abuse by Nassar, was likely to get a “kickback” from the lawyers for her role in the case, according to an article in The Chronicle for Higher Education.
On Friday, two Michigan State trustees told Detroit ABC affiliate WXYZ-TV that Engler should step down immediately.
“He needs to resign immediately. He lacks empathy. He lacks the tone needed to be university president,” trustee Brian Mosallam told WXYZ-TV.
“His comments regarding Rachel Denhollander are unconscionable,” he added. “He is not fit to lead Michigan State.”
“He’s the wrong leader for Michigan State University,” fellow trustee Dianne Byrum told WXYZ-TV. “He needs to step down and resign.”
Engler, the former Republican governor of Michigan, responded to Mosallam’s calls to resign by digging in. He released a statement Friday saying, “I continue to look ahead.”
“Whatever the tensions were before, we have successfully negotiated a settlement agreement — something that is fair and equitable to both sides, and that both sides agreed to,” Engler said in the statement. “We are now committed to continuing our efforts to strengthen sexual misconduct prevention on and off campus and to respond promptly to and appropriately if prevention fails.”
“I am looking forward to the Board of Trustees meeting next week where we will continue our progress and efforts to move forward,” he added. “I believe actions matter, and that is how the success of our work will be determined.”
Denhollander, meanwhile, spent Friday on Twitter amplifying the number of people calling for Engler to resign. She criticized another trustee who continues to support Engler, saying, “Because stability doing the WRONG THING is better than changing for the right thing?”
Among the public figures Denhollander applauded for calling on Engler to resign were Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and Michigan Rep. Justin Amash.
“I think Engler has made it very clear that he’s not capable of leading MSU out of this crisis,” Denhollander said in a statement to WXYZ-TV. “To characterize not just myself as manipulating for money, but to characterize all these other women as pawns, as being too stupid to know that they’re manipulated, is a gross mischaracterization of sexual assault survivors that is going to set the tone on campus.”
Morgan McCaul, another survivor of Nassar and one of many to speak publicly at his sentencing hearing, called on the public to “occupy” the Board of Trustees meeting on June 22 in order to demand Engler’s resignation.
Engler could be forced out of the president position if five of eight trustees vote for his ouster.
Michigan State University came to a settlement for $500 million with victims of Nassar in May. There has been $425 million set aside for current victims, while $75 million will be set aside for any future claimants.
Nassar, who was a faculty member at MSU and served as the longtime doctor to the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team, was sentenced in January to up to 175 years in prison in connection with the treatment of several victims. Nassar faced charges on seven counts of criminal sexual misconduct in the first degree, to which he pleaded guilty to in November.
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Source: ABC National News