The human toll of Larry Nassar’s decades-long predatory behavior is difficult to truly appreciate. For every powerful and heroic victim statement made in a Lansing courtroom this week, there are thousands of unsaid words chronicling the deep and unshakable damage this monster inflicted on young women. Every adult who could have done something to stop or impede his wrath of destruction should forever feel the specific and unforgivable shame reserved for enablers.
For far too long, warnings were ignored and cries for help stifled. Nothing on the backend will ever come close to making things right. But to see Michigan State, my alma mater, repeatedly fail to do the bare minimum after dropping the ball so mightily is painful. To watch leadership step on every available rake and amplify their incompetence makes an alum’s stomach turn.
Today, on the day Aly Raisman spoke with an eloquent fire fueled by righteous indignation, MSU’s Board of Trustees decided it prudent to give embattled president Lou Anna Simon a public vote of confidence. One would think after news emerged that no fewer than 14 staff members knew of Nassar’s misdeeds and did nothing, some self-reflection would be in order. One would think the university would do the human thing and address the clear problem.
Instead, it appears, the board chose to put brand over humanity by sending the most heinously tone-deaf message possible.
While the extent of Simon’s knowledge and culpability in this scandal is unknown to this point (though will soon be flushed out by an independent investigation), her gross mismanagement of the situation this week alone is grounds for removal. It’s difficult to imagine how she could have handled it any worse with the eyes of the world watching.
This is the woman who had the gall to tell a victim asking that she be in the courtroom to hear a first-hand testament to the damage done by Nassar that she couldn’t fit it into her schedule and would instead watch via Livestream. That was the message given by the person in charge of tens of thousands of young women. That’s the message given to someone going through unspeakable pain and asking only for the smallest of gestures.
Simon and the board have haphazardly tried to blot out the stain on Michigan State and made it larger and more permanent. They seem more concerned with the brand than their fellow man. It’s a horrendous response in both practice and in terms of public relations.
My question to those in charge who think Simon deserves to stay? If this is what handling things correctly looks like, then what would things look like if they were being botched?
By acting in the interest of the brand, MSU brass have willingly forfeited common sense and ignored the senses that make them human, with predictable results. With evidence that the university has turned both a blind eye and deaf ears when it mattered most, they doubled down. Worse, the board said it has “has listened and heard the victims,” an appalling statement considering the victims had not yet been fully heard.
Deaf, blind and without empathy is no way to go through life. And it’s no way to operate as molders of minds. The rush for self-preservation is so swift that it’s stepping all over what’s important.
The board’s opinion does not reflect the opinion of alumni and current students who want accountability. It’s becoming abundantly clear that “Spartans Will,” that old refrain used to push enrollment and build a brand, really means “Spartans Will When It’s Convenient.”
Otherwise, forget it, we can’t be bothered.
Fellow Spartans should pause before sending another cent back to East Lansing — at least until some real leadership decides to poke its head above ground. A donation to any organization aimed at helping sexual assault victims would surely be a better use of one’s money, no matter how fervent the passion for all things Sparty.
The emerging truth is tough to swallow, but painfully obvious. Michigan State’s “only colors” are no longer green and white. They are cowardice and shame.