State of Michigan
Former Michigan Gov. John Engler has resigned as interim president of MSU.

Under fire, interim president at Michigan State resigns

Jan. 17, 2019
John Engler had been criticized for demeaning remarks he had made about victims of the university's sexual assault scandal.

Interim Michigan State University president John Engler has resigned after drawing public rebuke for saying women sexually assaulted by a university physician were enjoying the publicity they were getting.

ABC News reports that the board announced at its meeting Thursday that Engler's resignation is effective immediately. On Wednesday, Engler said he would step down next week amid fallout from remarks he made about some victims of former sports doctor and convicted sexual abuser Larry Nassar.

When the board announced during the meeting that the resignation would be immediate, the audience broke into loud applause.

"A wrong has been righted today. I'm sorry it took so long," says Trustee Kelly Tebay. Another trustee, Nancy Schlichting, added: "Values matter. Behavior matters."

Engler, a former Michigan governor, was brought in to help the university recover from the Nassar sexual abuse scandal. Last week he told The Detroit News that Nassar's victims had been in the "spotlight" and were "still enjoying that moment at times, you know, the awards and recognition."

Hundreds of women and girls, most of them gymnasts, accused Nassar of molesting them when they sought treatment during his time working for Michigan State and USA Gymnastics. The victims included Olympic gymnasts.

Engler submitted an 11-page letter on Wednesday to Dianne Byrum, chairwoman of Board of Trustees. The letter made no mention of recent criticism of his recent remarks and instead listed what he considered to be his accomplishments in nearly a year of service.

"It has been an honor to serve my beloved university," wrote Engler.

The board appointed Satish Udpa as the new interim president. He now serves as the school's executive vice president for administration and is a distinguished professor.

Nassar is now serving decades-long prison sentences for sexually assaulting patients and possessing child pornography.

Engler was brought in as interim president last February following the resignation of president Lou Anna Simon. Simon now is facing criminal charges of lying to investigators about complaints involving Nassar

Dianne Byrum, who became chairwoman of the trustees board last week, stopped short of confirming Wednesday that she asked Engler to resign. But she said that Engler's comments make "it very difficult for the MSU community to make the changes necessary and rebuild both trust and credibility, and frankly for the survivors to heal."

After Engler was hired, Michigan State agreed to a $500 million settlement with 332 women and girls who said they were sexually assaulted by Nassar. Of that, $75 million will cover future claims.

In April, Engler was criticized after telling another university official in emails that Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to go public with accusations about Nassar, was probably getting a "kickback" from her attorney.

Denhollander told the Associated Press on Wednesday that her hope is the board "is signaling at least the beginning of a true change in direction and tone. And in order to do that, they have to deal with the person they put in place."

The university fired Nassar in 2016, two years after he was the subject of a sexual assault investigation. He also worked with the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team.

A special prosecutor in December accused Michigan State of stonewalling his investigation into the school's handling of the scandal.

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