EAST LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon has rejected a $150,000 raise amid fallout over the school’s handling of former campus doctor Larry Nassar.
Several victims of Nassar and their supporters attended Friday’s Board of Regents meeting. The group silently stood holding signs; some wore black banners over their mouths with the word “silenced” written across it.
About half-way into the 90 minute meeting, one of the trustees read a statement on behalf of the board, referring to the Nassar situation.
“We are deeply saddened by the stories of abuse that led to this moment and are grateful for the courage the victims showed in coming forward. We are genuinely sorry for what happened to you and express our deepest sympathies to each of you and every one of you, particularly those that are here today,” it read in part.
“It is simply not true that there has been any kind of cover-up,” the statement continued.
Simon and many of the trustees also addressed the situation.
“I’m truly sorry for the abuse you’ve suffered, the pain it’s caused, and the pain it continues to cause today. I’m sorry a physician who called himself a Spartan so utterly betrayed your trust and everything the university stands for,” Simon said.
“I wish I had a handbook on the perfect way to handle this, and I don’t. It’s a tough situation. But I can absolutely 100 percent tell you that myself and any member of this board would put the victims ahead of the brand or the reputation of this university,” said Trustee Mitch Lyons, who lives in Rockford with his wife, three daughters and three sons.
Simon and the board agreed to put what would have been her raise into a scholarship fund and create a $10 million fund for mental health services for sexual assault survivors.
But victims who spoke at the meeting said the move was too little, too late.
“Today’s apology is not enough and comes too late. Would you have apologize had we not all shown up today? Until today, I have not received any offer of counseling from the university. No one from MSU has ever reached out to me or any other victim to my knowledge to ask how we are or even offer a kind word. I was insulted when a member of this board referred to victims and their attorneys as ambulance chasers looking for a pay day,” said Kaylee Lorenz, who is a victim of Nassar.
Her mother joined the growing call for an internal investigation into how MSU handled Nassar.
“Show the world that you have nothing to hide,” she said.
Kaylee broke down crying as she recounted the first time she says Nassar sexually assaulted her, during her third appointment with him when she was 13 years old.
“I got this gut-wrenching nauseous feeling that five years later, has yet to go away. His treatment then went further, and I have never been the same,” she said tearfully.
“To this day, Kaylee can’t shut her eyes at night without seeing that monster’s face. And she calls me sobbing, sometimes uncontrollably. She has nightmares of his assaults and I often cry myself to sleep, knowing that you could’ve stopped him,” said her emotionally shaken mother, pointing out girls who reported abuse in the 1990s.
“Many of the administrators, coaches and trainers who were there while Larry Nassar preyed upon young girls still hold their positions and continue to deny their responsibility for his actions. Your lawyers say that Nassar fooled everyone at MSU; I don’t believe that. But if it’s true, shame on all of you,” added Kaylee, who is now 18 and attending Adrian College instead of MSU.
Some of those who attended the meeting also called for Simon’s resignation and for a published report of the investigation.
At least two other victims spoke during the meeting, including 23-year-old Jessica Smith, who created #MeTooMSU.
“At night I lay in bed and wonder, ‘Why don’t these people care about me?’ Why don’t you hear our cries? Why is it that while I’m fighting for your campus, that you’re off celebrating sports and financial gains and status. To me there is nothing more important than changing the culture of your unsafe campus and helping the people who were hurt.”
Smith said there was nothing MSU officials could do to take back what happened to her, including the sleep she lost and the trauma she and her family have endured.
“You, MSU, have failed us. It’s time for actions that reveal the truth and demonstrate your beloved slogan: Spartans will,” she said.