East Lansing — Thousands turned out for a public forum Thursday to voice their anger over the Larry Nassar sex assault scandal and MSU’s handling of it; up to 750 were allowed in the meeting room, where one called the damage to the university “a gangrene rotting on the inside.”
Some said their perception of their campus had been shattered as news of the assaults came to light. Others, some in tears, said they were frustrated and disappointed over MSU’s handling of the incidents over the years.
“I’m the shyest person I know, so you know it’s bad when I’m not comfortable speaking up in class and I’m speaking up right now,” said senior Payton Virsik, addressing MSU Trustee Brian Mosallam, who hosted the meeting at the Kellogg center in East Lansing.
“It’s obvious you have a lot to reflect on. I just want to say, it’s your job to protect the student body. The students are your No. 1 priority and we do not feel like your priority. So it’s time for you to do the right thing, it’s time for you to do your job. At this point, your job is to resign, because you are not very good at it.”
Mosallam told the crowd: “Tonight is the beginning of many conversations, where I promise to listen and listen and listen.”
Mosallam said the meeting was an attempt to bridge a widening gap between the university administration and students and staff following sentencing hearings for Nassar. About 222 women have either delivered victim impact statements or were expected to this week. The scandal has roiled the university, students and faculty and led to the resignation of Lou Anna Simon, the school’s president, and retirement of MSU’s Athletic Director Mark Hollis.
The town hall meeting comes a day after trustees named former Gov. John Engler as interim president, a move that set off protests among some students and faculty.
Between 3,000 and 5,000 people were estimated to have attempted to gain entry to the Kellogg center room, according to Stephanie Nawyn, the director of the Center for Gender in Global Context, which was moderating the event. MSU police said organizers opened up more conference rooms to accommodate a total of about 750 people. The crowds in the hallways thinned as seats filled up inside.
“MSU has a gangrene rotting on the inside,” said Rob LaDuca, a member of the at-large faculty Steering Committee. "Unless the hurt and wound of all of the communities and the rot in the administration is not excised out and exposed to the painful light of scrutiny, that infection will remain."
The town hall was set up to prompt discussions among individuals at the meeting. That format was replaced, however, as the crowd grew, and microphones were passed to individuals who wanted to be heard.
“Michigan State was the only school I applied to, it’s the only school I wanted to go to,” one freshman said. “And I’m honestly kind of ashamed to be here right now. I’m considering transferring cause I don’t want to give one more cent to his institution.”