Under fire for her handling of a case involving a former faculty member accused of sexually abuse, Lou Anna Simon has resigned as president of Michigan State University in East Lansing.
Simon announced her resignation just a few hours after a judge imposed a lengthy prison term on Larry Nassar, a doctor and former faculty member at the school who has been accused of sexually abusing more than 150 girls and women, including several members of the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team.
As a faculty member at MSU and a doctor for USA Gymnastics, the organization responsible responsible for selecting and training national teams for the Olympics, Nasser worked for two decades with elite gymnasts, in addition to thousands of youth athletes and women and girls who saw him for other sports injuries. He was a faculty member in the university's College of Osteopathic Medicine until MSU fired him in September 2016.
As the scale of the abuse was revealed over the last two years, many victims and others criticized Michigan State and Simon for not taking action more quickly against Nassar. Amid a crescendo of calls for her to step down, Simon announced her departure in a letter posted on the university's website.
"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.
Simon, who has been president of the 50,000-student institution since 2005, noted that she had spent her entire professional career—more than 40 years—at Michigan State.
"I love this place," she said. "I have watched it grow and prosper, and it has been the honor and privilege of my life to serve as its president."
In her letter, Simon defended the university's actions involving Nassar. She said that after a victim filed a complaint in 2016 with MSU police against the doctor, the university began an investigation and fired Nassar. Simon also alluded to a review paid for by MSU and conducted by former federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald that asserted there no evidence that university officials knew Nassar was sexually abusing young female athletes.
"I am pleased that statements have been made by Mr. Fitzgerald and Board members about my integrity and the fact that there is no cover-up," Simon said.
Others have disputed that assertion. An investigation by The Detroit News found that at least 14 MSU representatives were made aware of reports of sexual misconduct by Nassar in the two decades before his arrest.
Among those notified, the newspaper reported, were Simon, athletic trainers, assistant coaches, a university police detective and an official who is now MSU’s assistant general counsel.
Nasser was sentenced on Wednesday to serve 40 to 175 years in prison for criminal sexual abuse. Ingham County Judge Rosemarie Aquilina imposed the severe sentence after hearing testimony from 156 of Nassar's victims.
The doctor had pleaded guilty to seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. In December, he was sentenced in federal court to 60 years in prison on three child pornography charges. He also is awaiing sentencing later this month on three more sexual assault charges in Eaton County, Mich.