Response from Board of Trustees on LSJ editorial (Dec. 3, 2017)
While we respect the role newspapers such as the Lansing State Journal play in asking tough questions of our leaders and institutions, we disagree vehemently with the conclusion drawn in today’s editorial. Our full confidence in President Lou Anna K. Simon has not wavered. We firmly believe she is the right leader for this university.
As publicly elected officials overseeing MSU, we are provided a unique perspective on actions taken and decisions made regarding the university’s response to sexual assault and Title IX issues, particularly the Larry Nassar case. We have been kept fully informed and regularly updated about the legal team’s work on that case, and they have repeatedly assured us that if they learn of criminal wrongdoing by any employee, at any level, it will immediately be reported to law enforcement authorities. None has been found by anyone other than Nassar.
We recognize that the past several years have been challenging when it comes to the critical issue of sexual misconduct here at MSU and across the country. We sympathize with all survivors in the MSU community. When these horrible incidents do occur, our priority is to ensure justice for survivors and to make sure they have access to the caring support and resources they need. No one should be threatened with sexual violence. We must continue to do everything we can to eradicate it.
Whether it is the creation of the Office of Institutional Equity, improving resources on campus for survivors or the recent external review of our Title IX program, active steps have and are being taken to better serve the MSU community. Sexual assault complaints are complex and challenging to investigate and adjudicate, and universities must provide a neutral, timely process that is fair to both parties.
When it comes to these critical issues, MSU is unfortunately often limited in what it can discuss. We respect the public’s desire for information and details, but whether due to federal privacy laws or ongoing litigation, we simply are not always in the position to discuss details of specific incidents. This situation is exacerbated by those who selectively ignore other facts about MSU’s continuous improvement and the many details available about our progress, which is available on the university’s Our Commitment website.
As we stated earlier this year, the law firms of Skadden Arps and Miller Canfield have been engaged to represent the university in all aspects of the Nassar matter. This representation includes defending the university in more than 10 lawsuits, as well as an ongoing factual review necessary to address the allegations being made by plaintiffs. As a state institution, MSU is obligated to be a responsible steward of public funds and, as a defendant, MSU is entitled to legal advice protected by attorney-client privilege. There is nothing unusual or nefarious about MSU’s relationship with its counsel.
Discussing details during litigation or continuing to fuel speculation is inappropriate and unfair to the very people involved, including survivors. That said, as a university, we are absolutely committed to being as transparent as possible when discussing and making decisions on this topic.
President Simon has proven her commitment to helping the university when it comes to the societal issue of sexual misconduct. She has the complete confidence of the Board of Trustees to lead the university in this and all endeavors.
--MSU Board of Trustees