Last week while I was on my way to Texas, a private email conversation of mine from April was made public. I didn’t give it the consideration it warranted.
That was a big mistake. I was wrong. I apologize.
When I started this interim position in February, it was never my intent to have an adversarial relationship with some of the survivors.
My speculation about the lead plaintiff receiving kickbacks or referral fees hurt her deeply and for that I am truly sorry. She and the other survivors suffered greatly and they are entitled not to have their sincerity questioned, either individually or as a group. I apologize to her and her sister survivors.
The days after the April Board of Trustees meeting were extremely frustrating. Emotions and tempers, including mine, were running at a high level. It seemed as though we would never be able to reach a successful settlement. Nothing we were doing seemed to work.
When I arrived at MSU, Larry Nassar was already in jail but students and survivors alike were protesting. I apologized publicly to the survivors on behalf of the University for the harm Nassar had done. Others from the university, including the Board of Trustees had also done so. But disappointment and anger overwhelmed those apologies. I felt from the day I arrived that the university and the survivors had to come together to reach a just and equitable settlement in order for the healing to begin.
I also want to apologize to the MSU Board of Trustees and the Spartan community because my email created a major distraction from the important work we’re doing to make our campus safer.
Days after I arrived, I moved to revoke Dean Strampel's tenure. We changed the protocols and policies in our medical clinics that allowed Nassar to escape detection for nearly two decades. We are dedicating more resources to sexual assault prevention and support services. Still that was not enough, a settlement had to be achieved.
In May, we were able to do so.
I am very proud that the plaintiffs, their very able counsel and the university were able to achieve a settlement which will help the healing begin. My private comments from April coming out last week impaired that healing and it reopened old wounds as many survivors felt compelled to come to the defense of the first woman who spoke out. My regrettable private email harmed the healing process and, for that, I am also very sorry.
I will use my remaining time as Interim President of Michigan State University to continue implementing meaningful reforms that serve to increase safety and respect on our campus. Just as our new policies have assured the safety of any patient who visits an MSU clinic or is treated by an MSU physician, our additional staff and new leadership will make a profound difference across our campus.
Finally, we continue to welcome specific suggestions about actions that might be taken to improve our success at preventing sexual misconduct or sexual assault on or off campus. Your ideas are welcomed and will be treated with the utmost consideration.
-John Engler, Interim MSU President