QUESTION Why does the MSU Board of Trustees continue to employ Interim President Engler given that he has repeatedly insulted survivors and damaged the MSU brand?
ANSWER (updated Jan 17, 2019 11:00 pm ET) On Jan 17, 2019, the MSU Board of Trustees approved a resolution to accept John Engler's resignationon an accelerated schedule (effictive immediately). Satish Udpa is now Acting President of Michigan State University.
PREVIOUS ANSWER (posted Jan 16, 2019) MSU Board of Trustees Chair Dianne Byrum called on Engler to resign on Jan 16, 2019. She also informed him that the board is prepared to fire him on Thursday, Jan 17, 2019, if needed. Engler submitted an 11-page resignation letter stating he will resign on Jan 23, 2019. The Board will meet on Jan 17, 2019 to discuss next steps. It will be interesting to see if they allow Engler to dictate the terms under which he will leave MSU.
PREVIOUS ANSWER (posted Jan 15, 2019) This question is on the minds of many at MSU, in Michigan, across the US, and even in other parts of the world.
MSU Trustees have publicly condemned Engler's insulting and insensitive comments about survivors on multiple occasions, yet as of Jan 11, 2019, after 11 months on the job, Engler continued to insult survivors, and trustees continued to tolerate his behavior. Some speculate that given the board's willingness to accept Engler's behavior, it may be part of a strategic plan designed to obfuscate other information including the truth about this scandal.
Related Trustee comments are listed as follows:
In April 2018 survivor Kaylee Lorincz told the MSU Trustees during a Board meeting that she and her mother met with Engler and during the meeting "Mr. Engler then looked directly at me and asked, 'Right now, if I wrote you a check for $250,000 would you take it?'" She also said that he told her he had met with Rachael Denhollander and that she gave him a number. Rachel Denhollander later stated that she had never met with Engler nor discussed money with him (or anyone else).
MSU spokeswoman Emily Guerrant confirmed that she was in the meeting with Engler and Lorincz. In a conversation with Kaylee Lorincz's mother, Lisa Lorincz, Guerrant said her interpretation had been that Engler wasn't directly offering a settlement but engaging in a “philosophical discussion” about what amount would be acceptable.
Carol Viventi, then MSU vice president and special council to Engler, described Kaylee Lorincz's story as "false news".
In June 2018 an MSU spokeswoman confirmed that Engler asserted via email that Rachael Denhollander was likely to get a “kickback” from her lawyer for her role in the “manipulation” of survivors.
After the comments were released, MSU Trustees then met with Engler for two days after which he issued an apology. -- Trustee Melanie Foster clarified that even if Engler hadn’t apologized, she would not have forced him out. “Hell no,” she said. -- Trustee Dan Kelly said early on that he thought Engler should stay. -- Trustee Brian Mosallam was the first board member to call on Engler to resign, and he made it clear that he was prepared to fire him if he could get the votes. Additionally Mosallam Tweeted: "But because of his chilling behavior, Engler’s apology is too little too late. I stand by my call for John to step down so MSU can rebuild confidence with all stakeholders and focus on healing." -- Trustee Mitch Lyons said, "This cannot happen again. These comments cannot, and I will not allow it to happen again."
And then it happened again.
Later in June 2018, it was reported that Engler had walked into a room where a team was planning an event, according to Detroit Free Press sources, and told the group, "Get that teal sh*t out of here." (Teal is the color survivors and supporters wear to show solidarity.)
Additionally, MSU spokeswoman Emily Guerrant acknowledged that Engler had been reviewing drafts of the MSU Alumni magazine (scheduled to follow Penn State's lead by featuring the scandel) saying that he has "provided feedback". The feedback resulted in scrapping the issue ready to go to print and replacing it with a new version featuring an Engler quote on the cover and feature interview with Engler inside.
Trustee Brian Mosallam commented that Engler’s approach is disqualifying. He added. "Long term he can’t win this one. What happened to them is horrific. If you’re fighting with them and you’re adversarial with them, it can’t end happily. Why would you fight with survivors? It makes no sense. And yet he’s managed to tick off every one of them. It goes against human decency, and public opinion is on their side."
On Dec 4, 2018 Engler and Board Chairman Brian Breslin announced that the MSU Healing Assistance Fund would not be reinstated as promised.
Later, a statement was released by MSU Trustees Dianne Byrum, Brian Mosallam and incoming trustees Brianna Scott and Kelly Tebay indicating that they didn't agree with Engler's decision to discontinue the fund, and that it came as a surprise to them. Included in the statement: "This decision is counter to the research and advice provided to us by the Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct Expert Advisory Working Group. We intend to bring this topic before our current and future board colleagues."
On Jan 11, 2019 Engler commented to The Detroit News that some survivors were enjoying the attention required to serve justice when he said, survivors "who’ve been in the spotlight who are still enjoying that moment at times, you know, the awards and recognition."
Trustees Brian Mosallam and Nancy Schlichting condemned Engler's comments and stated that they are considering next steps.
Public criticism of Engler's comments was swift. On Jan 15, 2019 MSU Spokeswoman Emily Guerrant told Jack Stripling, a reporter for The Chronicle of Higher Education, that Engler “has nothing to add at this point.”
Everyone is left wondering how much more the Board of Trustees are willing to tolerate, how much more damage Engler will be permitted to inflict upon Michigan State University, and how many more insults survivors, and those who care about them, will be required to endure.
MSU Honor Supporter Comments
Linda Lacey | MSU | 1965 | "Fire John Engler.I am refusing to contribute any money to MSUuntil he is gone." James Fisk | MSU | 1988 | "Mr. Engler should be replaced as soon as possible! My donations to MSU are on hold until the Healing Assistance Fund is reinstated." Erik Schaefer | MSU | 2003 | "Remove Engler and the board. My donations to MSU are on hold until the Healing Assistance Fund is reinstated." Mike Bennett | MSU | PhD 2016 | "I'm disgusted to have to call myself a former Spartan. Engler needs to go, the Board needs to be remade, and the Healing Fund needs to be re-opened. My donations are on hold." Mark Rosen | MSU | 1993 | "It is time for us to hire a permanent President, Engler is an embarrassment! My donations to MSU are on hold until the Healing Assistance Fund is reinstated." Aimee Pollet | MSU | "Now that we have a new board, Engler must go ASAP!" Summer Schriner | MSU | 2000, 2004 | "We are a disgrace. Stop making it worse! Get rid of Engler and bring back the fund. Please honor the MSU commitment to the Healing Assistance Fund." Aaron Mariasy | MSU | 2021 | "Enough is enough. Survivors of this tragedy and the student of MSU have been lied to time and time again. It's time to fire John Engler and gut the Board of Trustees." Cory Gordinier | "The actions of President-Interim John Engler, and through their support of him, the Michigan State Board of Trustees, is a direct insult to the victims of crimes committed to Michigan State students, that the University should and is responsible for. If those in charge of the University cannot appropriately shoulder that responsibility, they should be replaced with honorable people who can." Julie Hagstrom | "The withdrawal of the Healing Assistance Fund is yet another betrayal implemented by John Engler. His actions have consistently shown him to be an adversary, not an advocate for survivors and the university. We are deeply troubled by the egregiousness of everything he has touched. The faculty, the staff, students and alumni are disgusted. Re-open the fund immediately! Please honor the MSU commitment to the Healing Assistance Fund."