Trustees should drop anonymity and go on record individually

Dozens of women and girls shed their anonymity this week during the sentencing hearing for convicted sex abuser Larry Nassar.

They bravely stood in open court, putting their names and faces into the record as victims – or shall we say survivors – of the former doctor who assaulted them under the guise of providing medical treatment.

They want to be heard. They want to be on record.

Members of the Michigan State University Board of Trustees should follow the lead of these women and girls.

Every trustee should be on record with his or her views on how MSU has handled the Larry Nassar case and sexual assault allegations on a broader level. It’s too easy for them to hide behind the collective statements, such as the one released Friday after trustees met for five hours.

“We continue to believe President Simon is the right leader for the university and she has our support,” said the statement Board chairman Brian Breslin read to the media. The calls for Simon’s resignation, which started with the LSJ Editorial Board on Dec. 3, are growing louder as the horror of Nassar’s actions has been driven home day after day. And growing numbers of Michiganders are stunned by the trustees’ inaction.

Friday’s unified statement lasted about 24 hours before trustee Mitch Lyons broke ranks, saying “I do not agree with our statement of support for Pres. Simon. As I expressed repeatedly to fellow board members during our discussion Friday, I don’t believe Pres. Simon can survive the public outcry that has been generated by this tragedy.”

So where do the other seven trustees stand?

Trustee Melanie Foster said they remain together in support of Simon.

Trustee Joel Ferguson said there would be “terrible collateral damage” if Simon is removed as president.

Trustee George Perles said he stands by Friday’s statement.

Trustee Dan Kelly said he had no further comment.

And trustees Brian Mosallam and Dianne Byrum haven’t responded to messages seeking comment.

Stop hiding behind prepared statements, MSU trustees. You are responsible for helping to lead Michigan State through what will undoubtedly be one of the most difficult stretches of its history. The people of Michigan deserve to know your thoughts on Nassar, Simon and the call for an outside investigation. They elected each of you. You are accountable to them.

If the survivors of Larry Nassar can find their voices and share the most horrific experiences of their lives in open court, surely each trustee elected to represent Michigan State University can answer the difficult questions being asked by survivors, students, alumni and supporters.

— Lansing State Journal

COMMENTS