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Heard on Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson

Is John Engler The Right Person To Lead MSU?

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Image credit: Michigan State University

At a tumultuous Board of Trustees meeting last week, a Nassar survivor said Engler offered her $250,000 to settle her case.

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John Engler at a Board of Trustees meeting earlier this year, shortly after being named interim president of MSU.Cheyna Roth/MPRN
Cheyna Roth/MPRN

John Engler at a Board of Trustees meeting earlier this year, shortly after being named interim president of MSU.

At last week’s final meeting of the Michigan State University Board of Trustees this semester, a Larry Nasser abuse survivor stood during public comments and told the board that interim President John Engler offered her $250,000 to drop the Nassar issue, and leave the university alone.

Her recounting of the meeting with Engler — which she says happened without her attorney present — raises serious issues about how the university and its interim president, who was brought in to straighten out the university’s handling of the Nassar scandal, see this issue and the victims.

Is it just about money? Are the women and their well-being occupying the right space in the conversation, or the in pursuit of justice?

And Engler — once a master politician but someone with no experience leading an academic institution — is he even the right leader for MSU?

Click here for a conversation on Detroit Today about John Engler’s appointment back in February

Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson speaks with two people who have been following this story closely from the beginning, both with the Michigan Public Radio Network in Lansing. Capitol reporter Cheyna Roth has been covering MSU Board of Trustees meetings in recent months as the university has tried to deal with the fallout of the Nassar scandal. And State Capitol Bureau Chief Rick Pluta has covered John Engler since the former governor’s early days in Lansing.

This would be a classic, vintage Engler performance,” says Pluta. “I think the message that we would take away from this is that John Engler…he clearly sees his role at MSU as, not necessarily the person to begin the healing, but to set up the requisite conditions for MSU to begin to heal.” 

And number one on his list of getting things out of the way is getting this litigation settled,” he continues. ”And this would be a classic Engler approach, which is sitting in a room and putting down an offer and basically challenging whoever else is there to come up with a counter-offer.”

Click here for a conversation on Detroit Today earlier this year about whether Michigan should change the way universities are governed in the wake of the Nassar scandal

Roth says while victims and their parents are involved in law suits against MSU, they are more interested in systematic and cultural change at the university, beginning with a change in leadership.

Pretty much all of them have said, ‘We don’t want Engler and we do not want this Board of Trustees here anymore,” says Roth.

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

Detroit Today

Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.


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