Michigan State University’s long-serving president resigned Wednesday night in the wake of the Larry Nassar sex-abuse scandal, saying, ‘‘as tragedies are politicized, blame is inevitable.’’
Lou Anna Simon, who had been credited with building the public university into a formidable academic center, bolstered by fundraising and research prowess, stepped down Wednesday in the face of a wave of public outrage. Simon said she had planned to retire in 2016, but postponed her departure after learning of allegations about Nassar.
In a statement released Wednesday night, she spoke directly to survivors, who have challenged her in harrowing testimony in recent days: ‘‘To the survivors, I can never say enough that I am so sorry that a trusted, renowned physician was really such an evil, evil person who inflicted such harm under the guise of medical treatment. I know that we all share the same resolve to do whatever it takes to avert such tragedies here and elsewhere. . .. . The survivors’ accounts are horrific. They are tragic, heartbreaking, and personally gut-wrenching.”
Brian Breslin, chairman of the board of trustees, said Wednesday evening the board would accept Simon’s resignation. ‘‘We agree with Dr. Simon that it is now time for change,’’ Breslin said. ‘‘President Simon has served with distinction as MSU’s president for 13 years and has been a constant presence at the university for more than 40 years. She literally has devoted her entire professional life to this institution, and more than anyone else has helped make MSU a national and international leader in higher education.’’
Simon’s success as a leader had earned her support from the board of trustees, most of whom have stood by her during the Nassar scandal, and many faculty members who cautioned against a rush to judgment in the court of public opinion. But the vise tightened during days of painful, tearful, angry and defiant testimony by victims of Nassar, including U.S. Olympians, who not only addressed Nassar, but the leaders of USA Gymnastics and Michigan State, whom they said should have stepped in long ago to stop the abuse. Woman after woman, they came forward, day after day, with photos of themselves as young girls and wrenching stories of suicide attempts, fear, and revulsion after being groped by Nassar under the guise of medical treatment.