Whitmer: MSU has a ‘clean slate’ after Engler

A statue on MSU's campus adorned with a teal ribbon
A survivor ribbon pinned on the statue of former MSU President John Hannah after John Engler's resignation | Michael Gerstein

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

Gretchen Whitmer | Wikipedia Commons

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.

Kaylee Lorincz, a sexual abuse survivor who gave an impact statement against Dr. Larry Nassar, Jan. 17, 2018 | Michael Gerstein

“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.

Michael Gerstein
Michael Gerstein covers the governor’s office, criminal justice and the environment. Before that, he wrote about state government and politics for the Detroit News, the Associated Press and MIRS News and won a Society of Professional Journalism award for open government reporting. He studied philosophy at Michigan State University, where he wrote for both The State News and Capital News Service. He began his journalism career freelancing for The Sturgis Journal, his hometown paper.
Susan J. Demas is an 18-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 3,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 60 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.


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