In the wake of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal, Lou Anna Simon, president of Michigan State University, is resigning, according to a letter posted on the school’s website.
Nassar is a former longtime school employee. He was sentenced Wednesday to up to 175 years in prison for the sexual assault of young female athletes.
“Throughout my career, I have consistently and persistently spoken and worked on behalf of Team MSU. I have tried to make it not about me,” Simon wrote. “I urge those who have supported my work to understand that I cannot make it about me now. Therefore, I am tendering my resignation as president according to the terms of my employment agreement.”
The chairman of the board of trustees said the group had accepted Simon’s resignation, and will work out the details of her departure over the rest of the week.
“We greatly appreciate her integrity, her many contributions, and her willingness to continue to serve through transition,” Brian Breslin said in a statement posted below Simon’s on the MSU website.
Simon had recently come under fire for what critics say is the mishandling of the Nassar scandal. They say the school’s leader of 13 years had been tone deaf and needs to be among those held accountable for what happened while Nassar was employed as a sports physician at MSU from 1997 to 2016.
The Detroit News recently reported that misconduct allegations against Nassar reached at least 14 MSU representatives in the two decades before his arrest.
Michigan State maintains that no official believed Nassar committed sexual abuse until newspapers began reporting on the allegations during the summer of 2016. Any suggestion that the university engaged in a cover-up is “simply false,” an MSU statement asserted last week.
Simon expressed sympathy for Nassar’s many victims.
“To the survivors, I can never say enough that I am so sorry that a trusted, renowned physician was really such an evil, evil person who inflicted such harm under the guise of medical treatment,” she said. “I know that we all share the same resolve to do whatever it takes to avert such tragedies here and elsewhere.”
‘Our voices are being heard’
Tom Leonard, the speaker of the House in Michigan, applauded Simon’s decision while criticizing the school.
“I am glad Lou Anna Simon finally did the right thing. The university’s response to this crisis simply hasn’t been good enough, and I hope that changes going forward for the sake of both the victims and the entire Michigan State University community,” Leonard said.
Sterling Riethman, a former collegiate diver who was one of Nassar’s victims, said she hoped Simon’s resignation would be a first, positive change.
“It’s encouraging to see that our voices are being heard, and I’m grateful for her acknowledgment of this tragedy,” she said.
Olivia Cowan and Larissa Boyce were among several of Nassar’s victims who said during their impact statements that the university failed to protect them. Nassar treated many non-MSU students – many of them children or teenagers – on campus.
“A public apology after you’ve hid behind this monster for over 20 years will never be enough. Where were you when we needed you?” Cowan recently told the court. “If you would have only listened to the women that brought complaints and concerns over all these years, this would have saved so many women and children from being abused, and from all the scars this has created.”
“I told Michigan State University back in 1997,” Boyce said. “Instead of being protected, I was humiliated. I was in trouble and brainwashed into believing that I was the problem.”
Simon had announced a $10 million fund to help Nassar’s victims access counseling and mental health services.
The university’s undergraduate student body president, Lorenzo Santavicca, said his group was committed to working with school leaders to find a replacement for Simon, whom he praised for her “dedicated and tireless leadership.”
Santavicca added that Michigan State has many issues to address as they move on from the Nassar scandal. And he thanked the former doctor’s victims for their public comments.
“We stand with you in saying the time is now for us to collectively change and improve the overall culture of safety and security for everyone at Michigan State University,” he said.
NCAA is looking at Michigan State
The NCAA, the governing body of collegiate sports, is investigating Michigan State’s handling of sexual abuse allegations against Nassar.
In a statement, the NCAA said it’s looking into whether the university violated any rules.
“The NCAA has sent a letter of inquiry to Michigan State University regarding potential NCAA rules violations related to the assaults Larry Nassar perpetrated against girls and young women, including some student-athletes at Michigan State,” the NCAA said. It did not provide additional details.
Jason Cody, a spokesman for Michigan State, said Tuesday the university is reviewing the letter for a response.
CNN’s Chris Boyette, Sonia Moghe, Lauren del Valle, Laura Ly and Phil Gast contributed to this report.