Michigan State chief denies raise, under fire over ex-doctor
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon declined a $150,000 raise on Friday, as school officials face growing criticism for their handling of an ex-campus doctor who sexually assaulted many young gymnasts.
Simon rejected the raise at a Board of Regents meeting attended by several victims of Larry Nassar. He pleaded guilty last month to molesting girls at his campus office and elsewhere. Simon and the board agreed to put the money in a scholarship fund and create a $10 million fund for mental health services for sexual assault survivors.
Simon, who has previously rejected raises, also received the board’s support.
“We extend our deepest sorrows and sadness for what has happened to each of you,” Simon said after victims and supporter spoke. Earlier, she praised the “survivors,” and told them that Nassar betrayed their trust and wouldn’t be in prison “without your voices and courage.”
Still, victims and others in attendance said apologies were inadequate, arguing Simon and other leaders should resign for failing to protect victims for decades. They also called for an independent investigation, with its findings ultimately made public.
“I’m happy that Larry Nassar is now in jail ... but I’m very disappointed by a lack of concern and disrespect shown toward me,” said Kaylee Lorincz, 18, who said Nassar sexually assaulted her with his hands when she sought treatment for back pain at 11. “Today’s apology is not enough and it comes too late. ... Many of the administrators, coaches and trainers still hold their positions and continue to deny responsibility for his actions.”
Simon earned about $860,000 in 2015, according to the latest data released by The Chronicle of Higher Education. She was the 12th-highest paid public university executive in the United States that year.
Lorincz, a freshman at Adrian College, said she was accepted at Michigan State, her “dream” school, but couldn’t attend because she wouldn’t feel safe there after her ordeal with Nassar. She added that she has received no counseling from the university, or contact from anyone asking how she is doing or to “offer a kind word.”
Michigan State officials have denied accusations the school covered up misconduct by school administrators. The university police and the FBI conducted a joint investigation earlier this year to determine if any school employees besides Nassar committed crimes. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette this month urged the school to give him an internal report but the school has said there isn’t one.
Jessica Smith, 23, who identified herself at the meeting as another victim of Nassar, said she couldn’t understand how the university could complete its own probe “without speaking to the victims.” She said his conduct has been reported by victims for 20 years.
Smith said the school has “failed us” and should be “taking responsibility for those who were hurt under your control.”
“I find it baffling that at 23 ... I have to say this to a group of adults,” said Smith, standing alongside demonstrators holding signs with messages that included “believe survivors” and “break the silence.” ″He admitted his guilt. We are no longer accusers — we are victims and survivors of this abuse.”
Nassar, who also worked for USA Gymnastics and lost his physician’s license in April, admitted his conduct had no legitimate medical purpose and that he did not have the girls’ consent. The 125 girls and young women who have filed reports of abuse with campus police will be able to speak at his Jan. 12 sentencing.
The criminal cases against Nassar followed reports last year in The Indianapolis Star about how USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians, mishandled complaints about sexual misconduct involving the doctor and coaches. Women and girls said the stories inspired them to step forward with detailed allegations of abuse.
Many of the accusers have sued Michigan State, USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee.
William Strampel, dean of Michigan State’s College of Osteopathic Medicine who has been named in lawsuits, announced Thursday he was taking a leave of absence for medical reasons. University officials say he will no longer be dean but remains a faculty member.