‘It Was Clearly A Mistake’ to Hire John Engler, Says MSU Trustee

MSU trustees Brian Mosallam and Diane Byrum talk about their calls for Engler to resign.

Cheyna Roth/MPRN

Late last week, emails surfaced that showed MSU interim president John Engler musing about the possibility that Rachel Denhollander, one of the first to step forward to accuse Larry Nasser of sexual abuse, might be in line for kickbacks from the attorneys who represented her. His statements were crass and cold, but not out of line with who John Engler has always been — a shrewd and sometimes ruthless politician.

But with a situation so delicate, and so integral to the health and future of the university, it’s harder and harder to see the way forward for Engler, especially now that members of the school’s board of trustees board of trustees members are beginning to call on him to step down.

The settlement with Nasser victims was an important step forward for MSU, and an opportunity to move the university forward, and eventually out of the shadow of this horrific scandal. The question now is whether John Engler can, or should continue to be part of that journey.

Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson speaks with two MSU trustees who have called on Engler to resign.

Laura Weber-Davis, WDET

“The leader of this university need to set a tone and clearly he has not sent the right tone,” says MSU Trustee Brian Mosallam. “He has sent a message to other survivors on campus that coming forward might not be the safest thing to do.”

“The e-mails made me angry, I felt they were hurtful to survivors, and they set the university back,” says MSU Trustee Dianne Byrum. “This is counterproductive to that healing process.”

Mosallam and Byrum say it’s too early to say whether there might be a vote of the board to remove Engler.

They say they can’t speak for other members of the board about whether they might support removal.

When asked whether it was a mistake to hire Engler in the first place, Byrum says she can only look to the future. Mosallam is more direct.

“It was clearly a mistake,” he says. “I will say unequivocally it was a mistake.”

Henderson also speaks with Cheyna Roth, state Capitol reporter with the Michigan Public Radio Network, who has been covering the story closely for months. Roth talks about the reaction from survivors and students. 

While Detroit Today was on on Mackinac Island a few weeks ago, Henderson spoke with the presidents of our other two major research universities in Michigan — University of Michigan and Wayne State University. He asked Mark Schlissel of U of M and M. Roy Wilson of Wayne State what they are learning from the fallout of the Larry Nassar scandal at MSU. 

“We all have to be vigilant,” says Schlissel. “We’re always looking at our own organization…We’re doubling down on our own efforts to make sure that everyone in our community shares in the responsibility to make this a safe environment.”

Click on the audio player above to hear the full conversation.


WDET’s Mackinac Policy Conference coverage is sponsored by The Henry Ford.


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