On this second day of my second week as interim president, I think it is important to address several matters many of you have raised with me.
Everyone knows the Nassar case is an international story. As he begins serving his sentence in a federal prison in Arizona, we are all still struggling to comprehend the extent of the damage he inflicted on so many girls and young women, and on their families.
Questions about how this could have happened and what must be done to prevent it from ever happening again are the subject of multiple inquiries. At the federal level, the U.S. Department of Education is conducting a Clery program review, the U.S. Senate has requested information, and the U.S. House of Representatives has two inquiries underway. The NCAA also is seeking information from us. In Michigan, the House of Representatives is requesting production of documents and the Attorney General’s Office, at MSU’s request, is conducting an investigation.
Add to these an accreditation agency inquiry and an ongoing blizzard of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, and the volume of compliance deadlines Michigan State University faces is daunting. Last week alone, we turned over data equivalent to some 45,000 pages of documents, emails, and other materials to William Forsyth, the independent special counsel who is heading the investigation for the Attorney General’s Office.
MSU is committed to cooperating with all official requests, and I’m grateful for the cooperation that faculty and staff have given the General Counsel’s office and the law firms that are assisting the university.
While the investigations are ongoing, activity in lawsuits representing well over 100 survivors continues to move forward. I’m following the progress closely as we work to return to mediation and, I fervently hope, a just resolution that helps the survivors bring some closure to this horrific chapter in their lives. Michigan State, too, needs to heal and to emerge a stronger institution, one where safety, respect, and civility are hallmarks.
That is not a new expectation. The University Policy on Relationship Violence & Sexual Misconduct states from the outset: “Michigan State University is committed to maintaining a learning and working environment for all students, faculty, and staff that is fair, humane, and responsible—an environment that supports career and educational advancement on the basis of job and academic performance.... Relationship violence, stalking, and sexual misconduct are not tolerated at Michigan State University.”
It is a privilege to call ourselves Spartans, one that carries a responsibility to adhere to standards of behavior, on campus and off, that should be well understood by all. We know from Title IX reports that a large proportion of our sexual assaults happen on campus, that all too often those involved are familiar with each other, and that alcohol consumption is often involved. We can do better with our campus relationship climate, and I’ll continue reaching out to people and groups in the days ahead for advice and suggestions that can move us toward the kind of campus we all want to be associated with.
Finally, I viewed with great concern a recent ESPN report that gathered considerable national attention in no small part because it showed a promotional graphic of our head football and men’s basketball coaches with Larry Nassar. This was a sensationalized package of reporting that contained allegations and insinuations that we are now reviewing. The coaches were asked to refrain from comment while the reports were examined. That has been a burden that must be lifted. I hope that MSU can soon respond in full and affirm the integrity and probity that has been the hallmark of these two respected coaches.
It isn’t easy to live under a microscope. I’m proud of how so many members of the Spartan community have expressed concern for the survivors in so many ways. I’m pleased—but frankly not surprised—by the willingness of so many to commence the hard work of making real change in order to achieve an environment that truly is fair, humane, and responsible. To that I would add safe and civil.
I’m fully aware that there is a lot of work to do and not much time to do it. I appreciate your support as we together address the urgent tasks in front of us. Because this is how Spartans show their will.
John Engler, MSU Interim President