Michigan State University's President Lou Anna Simon and athletic director Mark Hollis resigned this week over the handling of sexual assault allegations, against Larry Nassar the former doctor for the school and USA Gymnastics who was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison.
"The last year and a half has been very difficult for the victims of Larry Nassar, for the university community, and for me personally," Simon said in a resignation letter Wednesday. "To the survivors, I can never say enough that I am so sorry that a trusted, renowned physician was really such an evil, evil person who inflicted such harm under the guise of medical treatment."
Simon said in the letter she had planned to retire at the end of 2016, but postponed the decision after the Indianapolis Star newspaper published a series of articles that opened the floodgates on the Nassar scandal.
Simon said she was proud of the work she has done to support the investigation into Nassar "even though the results have been very painful to all who watched."
Simon has faced mounting pressure to resign, especially in the last two weeks as more than 150 women read victim statements during Nassar's sentencing hearing. By Wednesday, Michigan lawmakers passed a resolution seeking her ouster.
"As Nassar’s legal journey to prison was drawing to a close, more and more negative attention was focused on Michigan State University, and on me," Simon wrote, while thanking the board for their support.
Hollis, the athletic director, announced his resignation Friday saying "I'm not running away from anything. I'm running toward something," according to MLive.
According to a Detroit News investigation, at least 14 people at Michigan State University received reports about Nassar's behavior in the 20 years before his arrest. The National Collegiate Athletic Association on Wednesday sent a letter of inquiry into how Michigan State University handled reports of Nassar's abuse.
Simon said she was "pleased that statements have been made" by the attorney hired by the university, Patrick Fitzgerald, who said there was no evidence that school officials knew Nassar was abusing young female athletes.
She also said she supported the attorney general’s office in reviewing the events surrounding the Nassar matter.
"As tragedies are politicized, blame is inevitable. As president, it is only natural that I am the focus of this anger," Simon continued. "I understand, and that is why I have limited my personal statements. Throughout my career, I have worked very hard to put Team MSU first.
"I have tried to make it not about me. I urge those who have supported my work to understand that I cannot make it about me now. Therefore, I am tendering my resignation as president according to the terms of my employment agreement."
Simon had worked at the university since the 1970s and became president in 2005. She earned her doctorate in higher education from MSU, before gaining employment in the office of institutional research and continuing to climb up in the administration. She eventually became the first female president of the university.
Earlier Wednesday, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina sentenced Nassar to up to 175 years in prison, saying to the former doctor: "I just signed your death warrant." Nassar pleaded guilty in November to first-degree criminal sexual conduct for molesting young athletes.
Nassar worked at MSU for almost 30 years as a sports doctor. During the sentencing hearing, women spoke of abuse that dated back to 1997 and several criticized the university, saying they reported Nassar but nothing was done to stop his abusive behavior.
"MSU has failed to represent us, failed to respect us, failed to take accountability for our safety," said Amanda McGeachie, a former MSU crew member. "After being a proud Spartan alum … I now feel ashamed to have represented a school who will not take accountability."
"[Michigan State University’s] response has compounded my pain," Nicole Reeb, a former athlete, said in court. "I am frustrated and outraged at the administration's inability to take responsibility for handing over children and girls to a predator for almost 20 years. I no longer bleed green."
Michelle Broder Van Dyke is a reporter and night editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Hawaii.
Contact Michelle Broder Van Dyke at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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