Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon is accused of turning a blind eye to the sex abuse perpetrated by Larry Nassar.
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In the wake of the Larry Nassar scandal, authorities at Michigan State University have made clear where their priorities lie: In minimizing the damage to the university and protecting as many school officials as possible from facing any consequences.
They don’t get it.
BEHIND THE EDITORIAL: Keith Burris and Wynne Everett discuss the Michigan State case
Day after day in court for nearly two weeks, dozens of women have come forward to make victim-impact statements at the sentencing hearing for Nassar. The 54-year-old former university gymnastics team physician pleaded guilty in November to 10 counts of criminal sexual conduct for abusing the women he was supposed to be treating. He already faces 60 years in prison on separate child pornography cases.
Incredibly, Nassar pleaded with the judge in his case that hearing the women’s testimony about what he had done to them would be too much for him to bear psychologically.
It should be too much to bear for MSU President Lou Anna Simon.
But it isn’t. Ms. Simon has resisted calls to step down and the school’s board of trustees has refused to fire her.
Trustee Joel Ferguson went so far as to tell a Detroit radio show “That will not happen. Period.” He called Ms. Simon the best president Michigan State University has had in his 30 years on the board. Ms. Simon cannot be forced from a job she does so well because of one scandal that is not her responsibility, he and other supporters argue.
But the Detroit News has revealed that at least 14 university officials — including Ms. Simon — were told of reports of sexual misconduct by Nassar over the course of two decades. At least eight women — of the more than 150 suspected victims — complained to someone at the school.
Nothing was done.
The Michigan State case has inescapable parallels with the scandal at Penn State University that broke a little over six years ago. There, assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky molested boys for years. He was protected by powerful head coach Joe Paterno and other university officials. Sandusky went to prison. Mr. Paterno lost his legacy. And Penn State’s university president, vice president, and athletic director all lost their jobs and eventually faced criminal charges and penalties. (The charges ranged from perjury to child endangerment.)
In the long run, officials at Penn State were held to account for their part in enabling Sandusky and allowing his crimes to continue for decades.
So too with Ms. Simon, and likely others at Michigan State. They must be held accountable. Since Ms. Simon and her administrative team were informed, there must be a recognition of the gravity of what occurred and what did not occur. Not just abuse, but criminal abuse of young women by someone they were supposed to trust. And not just one criminal who abused young women, but a system that did nothing to stop him.
MSU’s president and board of trustees are not only tone deaf but morally obtuse. They are still unable to see the magnitude of Nassar’s crime and their own complicity in those crimes.
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