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After Nassar Backlash, MSU Trustee Says They Will Keep President Because She’s A Cash Cow


Image via courtroom pool camera feed.

Michigan State University Board of Trustees Vice-Chairperson Joel I. Ferguson is facing the wrath of Twitter after comments made on a radio show in relation to the Larry Nassar child abuse case.

Longtime Michigan sportscaster Tim Staudt on Monday interviewed Ferguson on his radio show “Staudt on Sports.” After talking about a few athletic issues, Staudt asked a really, really easy question:  did Ferguson have a message for anyone out there in the greater Michigan State University audience given the events of the last year and of recent days?

Hello! The obvious response for any human being would have been to talk about the Larry Nassar sentencing hearing. Ferguson said:  “Uh, I, well, it’s just hard to pick out what people would want to hear right now.”

Mmmmkay. WHAT??!!!????? No wonder MSU officials are being accused of being “tone deaf.”

Ferguson went on to discuss last week’s Board of Trustees meeting. In that meeting, the board discussed the future of MSU President Lou Anna Simon. Many Nassar victims are calling for her to quit or be fired. Here’s how he characterized it:

“The thing we had the other day was five hours and, uh, Talking Lou Anna was ten minutes. We had so many other things were going over and we unanimously decided in that meeting right away” that the board would support Lou Anna staying as president.

Why?  “There’s so many more things going on in the University than just this Nassar thing,” he said.

One of the first things Ferguson named was a $50 million remodel of the school’s basketball stadium, the Breslin Student Events Center. Simon raised a really, really, really lot of money for it, he explained:

The person who hustled and got all those major donors to give money was Lou Anna Simon.  There’s so many things that make up being president of a university that keeps everything moving and everything right with the deans, everything, at a school where we have a waiting list of students who want to come . . . we define her overall job as why we want her to be president.

While the world seems to be rallying against MSU leadership while listening to victim after victim come forward against Nassar at a sentencing hearing, the MSU donors, according to Ferguson, support Simon:  “this weekend we had so many of our major donors and so many of our major alumni send in communications in support of our president.”

In other words, Simon is a cash cow for MSU, and MSU needs to keep her. “The collateral damage of not having her here would be tremendous for the university right now,” he said.

Ferguson also said Simon will not resign.  “That will not happen.  Period.  She’s a fighter . . . she’s not gonna get run out of there by what somebody else did.”

Ferguson is among those who seem to think Nassar existed in a bell-jar-like vacuum and that nobody else did anything wrong — even with more than 185 victims on the record according to court statements. Ferguson said that Nassar was alone with his victims, “on an island by himself,” and that a recently-requested attorney general investigation into MSU will ultimately reveal “our senior people were not complicitous in what this pervert [Nassar] did,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson eventually said that money will not ease the “pain and suffering” felt by Nassar’s victims, but said, “there’s going to be something happening in their favor” financially.

Ferguson literally laughed off questions about the NCAA getting involved and refused to compare what happened at MSU with the Penn State scandal. He differentiated Penn State, which suffered scandal in its own NCAA-sanctioned college football program, with gymnastics programs for young women at MSU.

One member of the board, trustee Mitch Lyons, is the only member to call for the university president to resign. A statement attributed to Lyons was published late Tuesday afternoon by the MSU school newspaper. In the statement, Lyons disagreed with Ferguson’s version of last Friday’s board meeting, especially when it came to timing:

Listen to the Ferguson interview here.  It begins aroud the 23:00 mark in the program.

[Image of Larry Nassar via court feed.]

[Editor’s note:  This piece has been updated to include the Tuesday afternoon statement of Mitch Lyons.]

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University. He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network and is now deputy editor-in-chief for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only. You should not rely on it for legal advice. Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.