Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Michigan State University alumna and a sexual assault survivor, said on Thursday that the university has a chance to move forward now that interim President John Engler has resigned.
Whitmer, a Democrat, did not mention the GOP former governor by name in a statement. She also didn’t mention the name of MSU Dr. Larry Nassar, who is in prison after sexually assaulting more than 280 women and girls, according to the Michigan attorney general’s office. Last summer, Whitmer called for Engler’s ouster for his handling of the scandal and treatment of survivors.
“The MSU Board of Trustees now has an opportunity to build a new foundation that will provide this university with a clean slate and a brighter future,” Whitmer said on Thursday. “The new president should be someone who will begin the healing process and restore trust between survivors, students, alumni and the administration.”
In 2013, while serving as Senate minority leader, Whitmer disclosed her sexual assault while in college. She was speaking out against the so-called “rape insurance” bill requiring women to purchase an additional insurance rider for abortion coverage, even in cases of rape or incest.
Engler was brought in to right the ship at MSU during the Nassar scandal, but he repeatedly tangled with sexual assault survivors. In June 2018, 120 survivors wrote a letter that Engler has “failed miserably.”
Kaylee Lorincz testified during one of Nassar’s preliminary exams and delivered the second-to-last impact statement in Ingham County court.
She said the decision to replace Engler made her cry tears of joy Thursday morning. Lorincz added that Engler’s comments have made it harder for her to get past the emotional trauma incurred by Nassar’s abuse.
“To hear this morning that his resignation is effective immediately, you know, I cried,” she said.
“He’s put us through so much and he’s affected our healing process and for me, I thought that I would be able to heal after Larry was sentenced,” she continued. “But that healing process never started for me because the constant harmful words and actions from him — it just constantly set me back. And I feel like now I can finally take that step forward and start to heal, and I am so ready for that.”
House Democrats in a statement praised Engler’s resignation and slammed the Republican for failing to “exhibit true leadership during this crisis.” The Progressive Women’s caucus in the Legislature said Engler “tarnished the name and reputation of Michigan State University, but failed the survivors who bravely came forward and demanded justice.”
House Republicans declined to issue a statement.