Our editorial: MSU should revisit Simon’s rich package
What are the consequences of leading a university that is so badly mismanaged that it allowed one of the most prolific campus sexual predators in American history to operate undeterred for two decades, and then, when he was discovered, ignored the victims and concentrated solely on mitigating the legal damages?
At Michigan State University, it is a quaint office in a newly refurbished historic home, with your spouse at your side and a very fat paycheck.
That’s the life former MSU President Lou Anna Simon is enjoying while the college she once headed is trying to restore its credibility and negotiate settlements with the 250-plus victims of Dr. Larry Nassar, a liability that could easily top $1 billion.
As more revelations surface of just how poorly Michigan State handled the allegations against Nassar and how callously it treated his victims, the retirement package Simon walked away with when she resigned under pressure this past winter seems increasingly inappropriate and insensitive to the victims.
Just last week, Michigan lawmakers issued their report on MSU’s management of the sexual abuse scandal that was centered in its gymnastics program, and the findings reveal Simon and her team were running an extremely loose ship.
Among the conclusions: MSU for years failed to follow up on complaints against Nassar that, if heeded, might have spared other girls and young women; shoddy record-keeping practices and the lack of an informed consent policy for patients of MSU medical facilities were “methodically exploited” by the doctor; and critical records had been destroyed by the university by the time Nassar was reported to authorities.
That Legislature’s report followed by a week the criminal charges filed against Nassar’s boss, Osteopathic Dean William Strampel, who is accused of inappropriate sexual behavior and neglect of duty. Strampel, who was fired by interim MSU President John Engler, had defended Nassar’s treatment and dismissed the complaints of his victims.
Increasingly, it appears the Nassar scandal is reflective of an overall culture at MSU under Simon’s leadership that did not take campus sexual assault seriously, particularly when it occurred in athletic programs.
And yet the ex-president, according to the Lansing State Journal, has been given an office in the historic on-campus Willis House, which has just undergone a nearly $1 million renovation.
She’ll share the space with four current or former MSU officials, including her husband, Roy Simon, who serves as senior adviser to the executive vice president for administrative services, a position whose title suggests MSU is not exactly a lean operation.
Simon, as part of her contract, still is a tenured professor, though it’s not clear when she’ll appear in a classroom. Her contract says she can spend the next 12 months on research, while continuing to enjoy her $700,000 president’s salary. If she decides to return to the College of Education faculty, she’ll get 75 percent of that pay, or about $562,500 a year for as long as she’s in the university’s employ.
Simon has not been accused of any criminal wrongdoing. The investigation into what she and other top MSU executives knew about Nassar, and how they reacted, is still underway.
But she was the CEO of a university where more than 250 girls and young women were sexually abused, and much of it happened during her decade-long tenure. She bears the same responsibility that any chief executive would when terrible things happen within their organizations.
The rewards she is enjoying in retirement seem out of touch with the seriousness of the horrible crimes that occurred at MSU on her watch. MSU is facing an astronomical price tag for enabling Nassar’s serial sexual abuse; it might want to reconsider showering millions of additional dollars on the former president who was responsible for the environment in which the scandal flourished.