Msu's John Engler Staying Put Despite Calls for Resignation
By David Jesse
Detroit Free Press
June 15, 2018
|Michigan State University interim President John Engler listens as he runs his first Michigan State University Board of Trustees meeting on campus in East Lansing, Mich., Friday, Feb 16, 2018.|
As two board members and a host of lawmakers called for him to step down, Michigan State University interim president John Engler said Friday he's not going anywhere.
“I continue to look ahead," he said in a statement released in the hours following two MSU board trustees calling for his resignation. He did not directly address the calls for resignation in his statement.
Referring to a $500 million settlement recently negotiated with victims of former MSU doctor Larry Nassar, accused of sexually assaulting dozens of female students and athletes, Engler said:
"Whatever the tensions were before, we have successfully negotiated a settlement agreement — something that is fair and equitable to both sides, and that both sides agreed to. We are now committed to continuing our efforts to strengthen sexual misconduct prevention on and off campus and to respond promptly to and appropriately if prevention fails.
"I am looking forward to the Board of Trustee meeting next week where we will continue our progress and efforts to move forward. I believe actions matter, and that is how the success of our work will be determined.”
|Michigan State University Board of Trustees member Brian Mosallam talks to the press on Friday, January 26, 2018. (Photo: Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press)|
Earlier Friday, board members Brian Mosallam and Dianne Byrum, both Democrats, said Engler must step aside immediately.
"It has become abundantly clear to me that this crisis will not truly settle until John Engler steps down as interim president," Mosallam said in a statement emailed to the media. "Unfortunately, and with great regret, John Engler’s tenure as interim president has continued the bleeding rather than stem it.
"I no longer believe that John Engler’s presence on this campus will allow Michigan State University to move forward. We need leadership that sets a tone of empathy and compassion towards our courageous survivors, and reembraces them as important members of our Spartan community. John Engler simply can no longer do that. And for these reasons, John Engler should step down immediately as this university's interim president."
Byrum's statement was similar.
"“The despicable and disparaging comments made about survivors by Interim President John Engler are completely unacceptable," Byrum said.
The number of lawmakers who said Engler should step down also grew.
Senate Majority Leader Alan Meekoff, R-West Olive, called Friday for Engler to step down.
"The majority leader is very disappointed and does agree that Engler should resign," according to a statement from his office.
He joined U.S. senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, both Democrats, as well as U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn; Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township; Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak; Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield and Justin Amash, R-Cascade Township, who also said Engler should resign when asked for comment by the Free Press.
Republican state lawmakers Rick Jones of Grand Ledge and Margaret O'Brien of Portage both called Thursday for Engler to step down.
Gov. Rick Snyder, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment.
The calls to step down came after the Detroit Free Press and the Chronicle of Higher Education published an email earlier this week from Engler to his top adviser accusing Nassar survivor Rachael Denhollander of likely getting kickbacks from trial attorneys.
In the same string of emails, Engler's top aide — Carol Viventi — accused Mossallam of not doing a good enough job of protecting Engler. The Free Press obtained the emails from a source within the Engler administration. The Chronicle of Higher Education first obtained the emails under a Freedom of Information Act request.
The email chain started with Nassar victim Kaylee Lorincz accusing Engler during a board meeting of offering her $250,000 in a private meeting to settle her lawsuit against the university.
That weekend, Viventi emailed board members, saying she wanted to set the record straight. She claimed Lorincz's statements were totally inaccurate and the meeting was set up by Lorincz in order to "set up" the school.
She then went on to say the trial lawyers were manipulating the survivors.
That seemed to strike a chord with Engler.
"Thank you for your strong defense,” Engler wrote in a 9:23 a.m. April 15 email. “It is deeply appreciated. At least we know what really happened. The survivors now are being manipulated by trial lawyers who in the end will each get millions of dollars more than any of (sic) individual survivors with the exception of Denhollander who is likely to get (sic) kickback from Manley (sic) for her role in the trial lawyer manipulation. "
The reference was to John Manley, Denhollander’s lawyer.
Engler took over as interim president after Lou Anna Simon stepped down under extreme pressure over her handling of Nassar, including being in charge when he was cleared by an MSU investigation in 2014 of any wrongdoing.
Nassar has been sentenced to 60 years in federal prison on child pornography charges and is in a maximum-security federal prison in Tucson, Ariz. He also faces a 40- to 175-year sentence issued in Ingham County and a 40- to 125-year sentence from Eaton County for sexual assaults. Those sentences will not begin until he finishes the federal sentence.
Engler was interviewed for the interim president's position in a private meeting with trustees on Jan. 29. He was the second interview that night, held at trustee Melanie Foster's house to avoid publicity.
While board members voted unanimously in public to hire Engler, the vote behind closed doors was 5-3, with Joel Ferguson the lone Democrat to vote for Engler.
Contact David Jesse: 313-222-8851 or email@example.com . Follow him on Twitter: @reporterdavidj