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The search for Michigan State University's next permanent president will be confidential, the 19-member committee leading the effort said Wednesday.

"The (university's Board of Trustees) and the search committee also have had extensive discussions about whether the search should be open or confidential," MSU Trustees Dianne Byrum and Melanie Foster said in a letter to alumni and staff. "In order to draw the strongest pool of candidates, the search for the next MSU president will be confidential."

Byrum and Foster are co-chairs of the university's presidential search committee, which has been charged with finding candidates to replace Interim President John Engler.

The former Republican Michigan governor took over at MSU in February after Lou Anna Simon resigned in the wake of the Larry Nassar scandal. 

Nassar initially denied accusations of sexually abusing woman and girls, then admitted to the sexual abuse, along with possessing 37,000 images of child pornography. He is serving one of three prison terms at  Coleman II United States Penitentiary, a high-security prison in Sumterville, Florida, near Orlando.

In January, Ingham County Judge Rosemarie Aquilina handed Nassar a 40-175 year prison sentence. It was one of three sentences that judges would give Nassar for his crimes.

The committee was formed in August to find Engler's replacement. The panel serves an advisory role to the board of trustees, which will elect the university's president.

ReadMSU names presidential search committee, faces criticism

The decision to keep the search confidential means candidates will be interviewed privately. It's a practice followed by many other schools, including the University of Michigan, which kept its list of candidates under wraps until the Board of Regents named Mark Schlissel, then the provost of Brown University, as president in January 2014.

The search for MSU's next permanent leader comes as the university has faced backlash over its response to Nassar's victims.

John Manly, an attorney who represents many of the women who sued MSU and other institutions over Nassar's abuse, blasted the committee's decision to keep the search confidential on Twitter.

"Michigan State University. It’s current mission: Destroying public trust one press release at a time," he tweeted.

Byrum and Foster said the committee continues to make steady progress and has begun accepting confidential nominations through the search firm helping in the process, Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates.

ReadFirm picked to lead search for next MSU president

Furthermore, they thanked the MSU committee for submitting comments about the search in 22 campus input sessions.

"These comments are valued and will play a critical role in the search committee’s deliberations," they said. 

Notes from the sessions are available on the committee's website

cramirez@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @CharlesERamirez

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