Over 100 Larry Nassar survivors are urging Michigan State University to fire its interim president, John Engler.
“While our hope had been that President Engler would bring accountability, transparency, and change to MSU, it is clear to us that he cannot,” reads a statement to the MSU Board of Trustees signed by 120 self-proclaimed “sister survivors.”
In the statement published Tuesday morning, the survivors wrote that Engler, 69, has “only reinforced the culture of abuse” at the university, and called for him to resign or for the board of trustees to fire him. The letter included signatures from Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman and the first woman to publicly speak out against Nassar, Rachael Denhollander.
Engler, the former Republican governor of Michigan, was appointed the interim president of MSU in late January after the former president, Lou Anna Simon, suddenly resigned amid criticism over how she handled the Nassar case.
The call for Engler to resign stems from a series of leaked emails published earlier this month in which he suggested that Denhollander was receiving a monetary “kickback” from her attorney. He was also embroiled in another controversy in April in which outlets reported he allegedly offered a Nassar survivor $250,000. Engler confirmed that he met with the survivor, but disputed that he offered her money.
“This is not leadership,” the survivors wrote. “President Engler’s statements and behavior are subtle threats against anyone who dares to speak up against their abuser and the environment that enabled their predatory conduct, lest they be ridiculed, lied about, and shamelessly mocked by a person of immense power.”
Nassar survivor and University of Michigan student Morgan McCaul told HuffPost she signed the letter to protect women and ensure future survivors are respected when they tell their stories.
“I signed the letter because we can’t afford to let a misogynist set the campus climate. Who we appoint into office matters,” she said. “And so when ... an institution pledging to make change has a leader so staunchly opposed to women seeking justice, it sends a message about institutional priorities. I signed the letter because I fear for the women on that campus, and how they might feel coming forward with their stories in a hostile environment at which John Engler is at the helm.”
The survivors reiterated in the statement that their main goal is to protect other victims on MSU’s campus who have yet to come forward with their stories.
“We chose to speak up at great personal cost because it was right. Because we care about those still silenced. Because we stand to protect those who are still at risk,” the letter reads. “Future and current survivors who have not yet spoken up need to know that they will not be attacked and assigned the same motivations as their abuser when they demand justice.”
Nassar, the former MSU and USA Gymnastics team doctor, is accused of sexually abusing over 260 young athletes under the guise of medical treatment. He’s now serving three concurrent prison sentences of up to 175 years for sexual assault and child pornography.
The women addressed each board of trustee separately, individually urging them to take action and fire Engler. The statement comes just three days before the board’s next meeting.
“There is no debate: President Engler has failed miserably. President Engler and leaders at MSU have refused to listen. They persist in attacking our character, our integrity and our intelligence. These attacks send a clear message that survivors who speak up will likewise be attacked,” the statement reads.
“They send a clear message that perpetrators and enablers will not be held accountable. They send a clear message that nothing at MSU ― none of the mindsets that allowed Larry Nassar to abuse children for decades ― have changed,” the letter continues. “Therefore, it is our position that MSU cannot move forward and become an institution of integrity and safety until John Engler is no longer President, and a new interim leader who will stand against an abusive culture is found.”
Brian Mossalam and Dianne Byrum, two of MSU’s publicly elected trustees, have also called for Engler’s resignation.
“Unfortunately, and with great regret, John Engler’s tenure as interim president has continued the bleeding rather than stem it,” Mosallam said in a Friday statement. “His misguided actions and comments have failed to re-establish trust and confidence in Michigan State University.”
Read the full statement below.