The serial sexual assaulter of USA Gymnastics and Michigan State, disgraced doctor Larry Nassar, was sentenced yesterday to 40-175 years after being convicted of seven counts of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree. Later that day, MSU President Lou Anna Simon announced her resignation, after student demonstrations and faculty resolutions called for her ouster.
While seeming to provide some justice to those who survived Nassar’s abuses, these two outcomes are not enough. Not when institutions of USA Gymnastics—under the auspices of the US Olympic Committee—and Michigan State didn’t believe the women who came forward and de facto let this continue again and again.
In the wake of massive calls on the Michigan State community for her resignation, Michigan State trustee Joel Ferguson issued a statement in defense of Lou Anna Simon. In it, he demonstrates everything wrong with the modern neoliberal university, and the role of college sports as an economic tentpole.
The meeting we had the other day was five hours. And talking Lou Anna was 10 minutes. We unanimously decided in that meeting right away… that we were going to support her staying as president. There’s so many more things going on at the university than just this Nassar thing. When you go to the basketball game, you walk into the new Breslin, and the person who hustled and got all those major donors to give money was Lou Anna Simon. There’s just so many things that make up being president at a university that keeps everything moving and everything right with the deans, everything at a school where we have a waiting list of people, of students who want to come. [Emphasis Deadspin’s.]
To Ferguson, serial sexual assault is just “the Nassar thing.” None of it matters, because there is a new athletic facility. But any attempt at plausible deniability by school officials was rendered obsolete after a recent investigation by The Detroit News uncovered that 14 university officials were notified about Nassar’s misconduct 20 years before he was finally arrested in December 2016. The article is littered with accounts of young women athletes seeking medical counsel, experiencing assault and its resultant trauma, reaching out to various athletic staff at Michigan State–all to be brushed aside.
There’s Larissa Boyce, a then-16-year-old high-school gymnast in Williamston who was a victim of Nassar, briefing Michigan State gymnastics coach Kathie Klages about an incidents of assault, only to be dismissed by the coach who would allegedly go on to give the doctor a heads up.