MSU Fallout Continues As Lawmakers Consider Action

Jake Neher/WDET

State House Speaker Tom Leonard (R-DeWitt)

The fallout continues at Michigan State University from the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal. Since President Lou Anna Simon’s resignation, the Board of Trustees has continued to face intense criticism from many survivors, their families, students, faculty, and alumni for the board’s handling of the situation.

The appointment of former Governor John Engler as interim president sparked an outcry due to his partisan political past, his record as governor on issues related to sexual assault, and possible conflicts of interest. The hiring of another former governor, Jim Blanchard, as an advisor to Engler has resulted in even more questions of possible conflicts of interest.

The MSU Faculty Senate recently held a vote of no confidence in the Board of Trustees. It passed overwhelmingly.

Now lawmakers at the state Capitol are considering ways to punish universities financially if they don’t do enough to prevent sexual misconduct on their campuses.

WDET producer Jake Neher was at the state Capitol recently talking with lawmakers about what they might do to address the scandal. Both the Republican and Democratic leaders in the state House seem uninterested in using the budget process to punish Michigan State — at least at this point. They say MSU has been complying with the Legislature’s requests related to its investigation into the Nassar scandal.

As long as they continue to comply and work with us, I don’t see there being any issues in the budget process,” state House Speaker Tom Leonard (R-DeWitt) tells Neher.

House Democratic Leader Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) says the focus should be on passing specific measures that address campus sexual assault head-on. He’s concerned withholding funds from MSU would only hurt students.

For people to focus on other issues instead of that when we have a limited amount of time on our agenda as legislators, I think it’s disappointing,” says Singh.

Singh tells Neher he’s pursuing a measure that would create an ombudsperson in the Michigan Department of Civil Rights that could act as an advocate for survivors of sexual assault when universities aren’t handling their cases properly.

Neher also speaks with Michigan Public Radio’s Cheyna Roth to get an update on what’s been happening at Michigan State since the appointment of Interim President John Engler late last month. They talk about the recent Faculty Senate vote of no confidence in the Board of Trustees and what that means for the university going forward.

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

Image credit: Jake Neher/WDET

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