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Years after Nassar, secrecy remains an issue at Michigan State

The abrupt resignation last week of MSU trustee Nancy Schlichting is yet another troubling sign for a campus and community eager for transparency and healing as it relates to the university’s handling of Larry Nassar and other sexual assault allegations.

Schlichting has a wealth of experience, including service to some 80 boards and having literally wrote the book. In her resignation from the MSU Board of Trustees, she cited the board’s lack of commitment to transparency.

Yes, the conversation is still about transparency – three years after the Nassar scandal broke; more than two years removed from former President Lou Anna Simon’s resignation; three months after new president Samuel Stanley took office.

Why is this still an issue?

n her resignation letter, Schlichting, who former Gov. Rick Snyder appointed in 2018 to replace retiring trustee George Perles, said, “It has become very clear to me that my commitment to have an independent review of the Nassar situation, and to waive privilege so the truth can come out, is not shared by the MSU board chair, legacy board members and some newer trustees.”

Simply put: The overarching culture at MSU has not changed. And it won’t change without changing the key players.

The LSJ Editorial Board alluded to it when calling for then-MSU President Lou Anna Simon’s resignation in 2017 and called on new MSU President Samuel Stanley Jr. to bear it in mind while assembling his administration in August of this year.

Now we’re saying it again: The culture won’t change with the same players in place.

Trustee Joel Ferguson has served on the board since 1987, trustee Dianne Byrum since 2009. Trustee Melanie Foster was elected in 2004 and again in 2014. They, according to Schlichting, are the ones leading the charge to block an independent review of 6,000 pages of documents related to sexual assault cases that are said to be protected by attorney-client privilege.

It raises the question: Who are these trustees – along with newcomer trustee Brianna Scott – trying to protect?

Certainly not the 505 known Nassar survivors. Certainly not the students and staff involved in over 1,100 sexual assault cases reported at MSU in the 2017-2018 academic year.

MSU has systemic problems that need to be addressed. In the light of day.

The Nassar scandal has forever tarnished MSU, costing the university its reputation and well over a half billion dollars. Refusing to lay the issue to rest with full disclosure and an independent investigation carries a price tag higher than any financial implications.

MSU’s trustees are unpaid representatives, elected statewide by the people to represent their interests. And that requires no-holds-barred transparency.

The resignation should cause Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to be precise in who she appoints to replace Schlichting, putting a commitment to transparency as a candidate’s No. 1 priority.

It should cause President Stanley to elevate the conversation about transparency and work with the trustees to do what’s right for the MSU community.

And it should definitely give the remaining trustees grave concerns about the direction in which they are headed.

— Lansing State Journal

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