Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon has resigned her post following the conviction of former university gymnastics physician Dr. Larry Nassar.
Nassar, who was also the team doctor for USA Gymnastics through four different Olympics, received a sentence of 40 to 175 years in prison, essentially a life sentence, for multiple counts of sexual assault while he performed exams on athletes, some as young as 6 years old. Nassar is also serving a 60-year sentence for possession of child pornography.
The university and Simon became aware of Nassar’s abuse as far back as 2014 (two years before he was fired), yet still allowed him to practice medicine on campus — prompting calls for Simon to step down from her position. On Wednesday evening, after Nassar was sentenced, she tendered her resignation.
“As tragedies are politicized, blame is inevitable. As president, it is only natural that I am the focus of this anger,” Simon wrote in a statement announcing her retirement.
Scores of women came forward during the past week to express their disgust and tell their stories of Nassar’s abuse. In total, over 150 women say they were victims of his years of abuse, including several prominent Olympic athletes.
“I am here to face you, Larry, so you can see I’ve regained my strength. I am no longer a victim. I am a survivor,” Olympian Aly Raisman told Nassar directly in court last Friday.
Simone Biles has also opened up about the abuse that she received from Nassar. “It is not normal to receive any type of treatment from a trusted team physician and refer to it horrifyingly as the 'special' treatment,” Biles said in a statement. “This behavior is completely unacceptable, disgusting and abusive, especially coming from someone whom I was TOLD to trust.”
It is unconscionable that these women had to endure the inappropriate and harmful abuse, both physical and psychological, from Nassar. His position is one that is granted a tremendous level of trust, which he disregarded completely when he engaged in behavior that was unquestionably assault.
The university’s behavior is also worth chastising. Simon’s departure is proper, and her dismissive attitude toward accusations against Nassar will forever be associated with her. More work needs to be done throughout the university to address what went wrong, and other schools of higher learning across the nation would do well not to replicate the mistakes made at Michigan State.
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