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MSU’s Board of Trustees have got to go



"For the rest of my life, I will carry a diploma from Larry Nassar University."

—Dan Martel, Michigan State University student

Everyone thinks they know the story at Michigan State University: a perverted physician, Larry Nassar, spent 20 years molesting female athletes and other women before he was caught. He's now been sentenced to prison for the rest of his life.

His days of ruining lives are, thankfully, over. However, that's not true for Michigan State University, an institution that appears to be one utterly screwed-up place.

Usually, when a scandal like this comes to light, there's a major housecleaning and those in charge resign or are removed.

Here, they've been allowed to stay in place and make things, if possible, worse. You need to hear and remember their names: Brian Breslin, Dianne Byrum, Joel Ferguson, Melanie Foster, Dan Kelly, Mitch Lyons, Brian Mosallam, and George Perles.

Ferguson, Byrum, Mosallam and Perles are Democrats; the others are Republicans. They are far more to blame for what happened than you might realize.

They failed to do their jobs. They failed to push for an independent investigation. By doing that, they let down the students they were sworn to serve. They seem to have thought that being an MSU trustee was all about good free football tickets and other perks, not due diligence.

You can give them the benefit of the doubt about this; it's quite possible they never heard about Nassar before he was finally arrested in September 2016. But even then, they did nothing.

They just sat there, as the months went by and more and more women came forward, and it was clear this was metastasizing out of control. No, they blandly accepted the assurances of Lou Anna K. Simon, their stunningly provincial MSU president, that everything was all right; nothing to see here — everyone will forget about it soon.

That never should've happened.

Actually, Simon should never have been MSU's president. Look at the résumés of the last several university presidents at Wayne State, the University of Michigan, or any large university.

Normally, they only get the top job if they've been in high positions — provosts, senior vice presidents — at a number of other universities, and maybe president of a somewhat smaller one.

Simon never even worked anywhere else, since the time she arrived from Indiana as a new graduate student in 1969.

Mostly, she climbed the administrative ladder at MSU, a competent bureaucrat who served as provost to M. Peter McPherson in the 1990s; she then became interim president when he went off to try to fix the banking system in Iraq back when we invaded it.

Giving her the full-time job was the path of least resistance. Some folks were charmed by her homespun habits of wearing clothes her aunt made for her and riding the campus bus system.

But that didn't mean she wanted to listen to others' opinions, or foster anything resembling open, democratic government.

Nor did she seem the least bit sensitive to what the women felt. She was so politically tone-deaf that on Jan. 19, after a meeting in which most thought she'd be fired, she sent an email to everyone that noted, among other things, that Michigan State would fight any attempt by the victims to seek compensation.

After all, she explained, the insurance companies required it. Five days later, just as the faculty was set to give her an overwhelming vote of no confidence, she scuttled for the exit.

"As tragedies are politicized, blame is inevitable," she said, in words that made Richard Nixon's resignation speech to his staff sound candid and human. "Therefore, I am tendering my resignation as president according to the terms of my employment agreement."

Why that odd language? Well, those of you who pay MSU tuition may be happy to know that all she has to do is return to the faculty to get her full $750,000 presidential salary for a year.

After that, however, she'll have to make do with a mere $562,500 for as long as the now-70-year-old wants to teach, employment law experts said. Nice way to lose a job.

But back to Michigan State University's Board of Trustees. In December, when it was clear that efforts to keep the Nassar damaged contained were unraveling, the board members decided to deal with Simon... by giving her a $150,000 raise.

Sensibly, she turned it down. I've been told, however, that this was a Kabuki show in which it was always understood they'd offer and she'd decline a raise to look statesman-like.

Instead the board just looked stupid. Not as stupid, however, as they did when she suddenly resigned. Knowing this was coming, former Michigan Governor and Ambassador to Canada Jim Blanchard lobbied for the job.

He loves Michigan State and is an alum and a big contributor, and thought, with Democrats holding half the board seats, he had a reasonable chance. But instead, the board voted unanimously ... for John Engler.

Yes, Engler — the former right-wing Republican governor who, as governor, had a record of contemptuously dismissing female prisoners' allegations of sexual harassment and rape at the hands of prison guards. Even The Detroit News found that "worrisome."

The News, a pretty thoroughly Republican paper, added in an editorial that they also "have concerns about the political divisiveness surrounding him and some of his ties to university donors." Not to mention that he's been closely associated with Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, who is supposedly conducting a complete and impartial investigation of MSU.

Schuette, of course, is running for governor. He also owes his political career to Engler, who rescued his career by giving him a job in 1991 after Carl Levin annihilated Schuette in a U.S. Senate race.

No conflict of interest there — or worry that Schuette, now running for governor himself, might do anything the least political.

What everyone should remember is that these Democrats — Dianne Byrum, Brian Mosallam, George Perles, and Joel Ferguson — crossed party lines to make Engler president of MSU.

Sources tell me that Ferguson, the worst of the lot, made a deal with the Republicans to install Engler. Perles, whose competence is suspect, has long been Ferguson's puppet.

The other two Democrats went along in what I suspect was some misguided and incompetent attempt to project unity. Every member of this board is, of course, deserving of total contempt.

The New York Times and The Detroit News editorial pages seldom agree on anything, except this: The entire MSU board needs to be removed by Gov. Rick Snyder, now. If he won't do it, the legislature should impeach them.

Naturally, they should have all resigned voluntarily, but they'd never do that; after all, they get free football tickets.

Just askin'... My bosses at WSU may not like me bringing this up, but where do you suppose Larry Nassar worked before he got his job at Michigan State? That's right — Wayne State University, where he was a graduate athletic trainer from 1985 to 1989. The South End, the campus newspaper, reported that "his behavior during his career at WSU has not been investigated."

Ah, OK ... but why not? If we know anything about serial molesters, it's that they don't suddenly wake up one day — when they arrive in East Lansing, say — and start to do it.

Bet you if Larry was allowed around female athletes at Wayne, there are some interesting stories to tell.

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