·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

News & Politics

Nassar Victims Want Engler Out of Michigan State Administration

— June 21, 2018

More than 120 victims of former Michigan State physician Larry Nassar have signed a letter asking the university’s Board of Trustees to replace the school’s interim president.

Former Michigan governor John Engler was appointed to head Michigan State after Lou Anna Simon’s departure from the post. Simon—accused of insensitivity and oversight during Nassar’s decades-long crime spree—reluctantly resigned in January, despite having the Board’s support.

Last week, Engler grabbed headlines by criticizing Nassar’s victims in an e-mail exchange with MSU Vice President and Special Counsel to the President Carol Civenti. In it, Engler accused Rachel Denhollander—the first woman to accuse Larry Nassar of sexual abuse—of receiving “kickbacks” from trial lawyers.

Michigan State University’s Administration Building in East Lansing, Many Michigan State students have accused the administration of being complicit in the Nassar cover-up. Image by Ryan J. Farrick.

“The survivors are now being manipulated by trial lawyers who in the end will each get millions more than any of [sic] individual survivors with the exception of Denhollander who is likely to get kickback [sic] from Manley for her role in the trial lawyer manipulation,” wrote Engler, whose correspondences were obtained through an open records request by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

In their letter to Michigan State’s Board of Trustees, the women wrote, “The most recent public disclosure of emails only further reveals the damaging mindset he has towards sexual abuse survivors who come forward. President Engler clearly views sexual abuse survivors as either manipulators out to use people {having the same mindset as our abuser), or as themselves manipulated into being used by someone for person gain (victims yet again).

“To President Engler, board members who support him, and other leaders at MSU who agree with his position, we say ‘no,’” read the letter. “We have not become like our abuser—manipulating for self-gain. We chose to speak up at great personal cost because it was right. Because we care about those still silenced. Because we stand to protect those who are still at risk. Future and current survivors who have not yet spoken up need to know that they will not be attacked and assigned the same motivations as their abuser when they demand justice.” reports that two trustees—Brian Mosallam and Dianne Byrum—lent their support to the women, asking Engler to abandon the interim presidency.

In a separate statement, Mosallam blasted Engler for a lack of respect and empathy.

The latest development in Michigan State’s ongoing struggle to move past Nassar has left Engler in an increasingly vulnerable position. The Chronicle of Higher Education, which published Engler’s e-mails online, notes that the former governor could be sacked if another three trustees turn against him.

Further afield in Lansing, players in the state legislature—as well as current Michigan Lt. Gov., Brian N. Calley—have called for Engler’s immediate dismissal.

A vote on Engler’s future with Michigan State could be held as early as Friday.


126 Nassar victims sign letter urging Engler to resign MSU presidency

John Engler Is 3 Votes Away From Getting Fired. Here’s How That Could Happen.

Join the conversation!