WNPR

MSU Interim President On Nassar Settlement

May 17, 2018
Originally published on May 23, 2018 8:53 am

NPR's Rachel Martin talks to Michigan State University interim President John Engler about the $500 million settlement for victims of university athletic doctor and convicted sex abuser Larry Nassar.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Three hundred and thirty-two women - the number is hard to wrap your head around. Think about a huge auditorium. Think about that auditorium filled to capacity. Three hundred and thirty-two - that's the number of women who alleged they were sexually abused by Larry Nassar. He's the former sports doctor at Michigan State University who also worked for USA Gymnastics. Yesterday, Michigan State agreed to pay $500 million to settle these hundreds of claims. Yesterday's proposed settlement is one of the largest ever for victims of sexual abuse. We are joined now by the interim president of Michigan State University, John Engler.

I appreciate you joining us. I wonder if you see this settlement as closure for the university.

JOHN ENGLER: I'd say it's partial closure. It's part of a larger problem I think the nation is confronting when we deal with sexual misconduct and sexual assault. The Me Too movement isn't going away, nor should it. I'm the father of three daughters. I mean, there are a lot of issues that deal with relations between men and women. This probably is somewhat closure for one evil doctor who problem - after he left the Olympics in 1996, Michigan State was so excited to get the Olympic doctor, the red, white and blue doctor. He came and put on the green and white, and from '97 through 2016, when it was discovered what he was doing, he plied his trade and he abused and assaulted a lot of women. And as you noted, that number is at 332.

What's so interesting and so sad is 175 parents were in the rooms while the assaults were occurring. He was that skillful. And so this has been difficult for the survivors. It's been difficult for their families. And it certainly has been difficult for the entire Spartan Nation. You know, we've apologized for this, but this man is now gone for 175 years, but the damage is going to linger on in the lives of these poor survivors. And so...

MARTIN: Right. Let...

ENGLER: The damage was paid. Our - you know, that's part of how you settle things.

MARTIN: Well, let me ask you - you're serving as the school's president because the former president was forced to resign over this. There is still an ongoing investigation by the Michigan attorney general's office into the school. Do you have concerns about what might come out of that?

ENGLER: Not at all, actually. I mean, we welcome the investigation. In fact, the board of trustees invited them in. Michigan State has done an internal investigation in preparation for the inevitable litigation, and in the course of that investigation that made it very clear if anybody were thought to be engaged in any criminal misconduct or involved in the cover-up - knew about Nassar but said nothing - they would be dealt with, be reported to the authorities. They didn't find that by the - and the attorney general hasn't either. We did find a dean that I identified when I arrived there whose leadership was just abysmal, and I just revoked his tenure.

MARTIN: Are you talking about William Strampel?

ENGLER: Absolutely. He was the head of the...

MARTIN: ...William Strampel, who was Nassar's boss.

ENGLER: ...Osteopathic college.

MARTIN: Right.

ENGLER: Exactly. He was the head of the college.

MARTIN: He was - he has actually himself since been charged with sexual misconduct and put on leave. As you noted, you raised a red flag about him. But he is still on the payroll. Why hasn't he been fired?

ENGLER: Because the university tenure process is ridiculous. But we've begun that process, and I expect that in short order, he will be. I mean, he's gone from university. He's been - he was fired as a dean. But I should say, I guess before I arrived, he was - he resigned just ahead of the posse. But his conduct was - it - that I identified was his leadership as the department head when the investigation by the attorney general got into his own computer and they found these other demons, you know, that he was dealing with.

MARTIN: But...

ENGLER: And he's not a good person.

MARTIN: Well, I want to - in our seconds remaining, I want to play some tape from one of Nassar's victims. Many of the victims say the settlement should've included mandatory institutional changes at the school. Let's listen to this tape from Morgan McCaul.

MORGAN MCCAUL: I just want to see real change. We have a lot of words and, you know, renewed commitments to transparency and accountability, but we're not seeing those structural changes being made.

MARTIN: Is she right? Does more change to come to Michigan State?

ENGLER: She's completely wrong. Only 31 - but only is a huge number - 31 were Michigan State students. Many others were not our students. But on the campus, the efforts on prevention that are being made that have already been put in place, the changes in how you would respond to a complaint of (inaudible) misconduct, sexual assault are that - you know, amazing. As far as a patient - and these were patients - I am confident that changes made in the medical schools and the clinics make it impossible for another Nassar ever to be undiscovered.

This is a sea change in terms of what's happened. So I think the survivors have been through an awful lot, and now maybe there'll be a chance to look at the changes that have been made. The - and I think when those are studied, they're going to be, I think, very pleased. And I think Michigan State's going to be a leader in the nation in terms of dealing with sexual misconduct.

MARTIN: John Engler is interim president of Michigan State University. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.