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Baffoe: Lou Anna Simon Makes Herself A Victim

By Tim Baffoe--

(670 The Score) For weeks, people from various corners were calling for the resignation of Michigan State University president Lou Anna K. Simon for her passive-at-best handling of the school's end of the Larry Nassar horror show. Simon wasn't budging, backed by board trustees who appreciate Simon's ability to rake in bucks a lot more than its student-athletes being sexually violated by an employee and who only spent "10 minutes" discussing "this Nassar thing." (Two trustees did ask for her resignation.)

A few hours after the Michigan House of Representatives and Michigan's U.S. Senators called for her job, Simon finally stepped down Wednesday night in a letter to the trustees.

If you thought that maybe after all this time of idling in the face of the awfulness of this situation that maybe Simon would go out with humility, well, nah. There's a not-so-awkward way to step down amid scandal, and then there's what she wrote. Let's look specifically at Simon making everyone aware of how much she might as well be counted among the more than 150 victims of Nassar.

Members of the Board of Trustees:

The last year and a half has been very difficult for the victims of Larry Nassar, for the university community, and for me personally.

Simon couldn't go one sentence before mentioning her struggle, grouping herself in the difficulty faced by Nassar's victims. She notes the last year-and-a-half while failing to mention that reports to Michigan State personnel of Nassar's actions date back to 1997 (Simon became Michigan State president in 2005). And in 2014, Simon was informed of a Title IX complaint against an unnamed doctor that she didn't follow up on. That investigation was "incredibly flawed," as Lindsay Gibbs wrote at ThinkProgress.

Continuing with Simon's letter...

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. I know that we all share the same resolve to do whatever it takes to avert such tragedies here and elsewhere.

Simon wrote in April 2017, "I have been told it is virtually impossible to stop a determined sexual predator and pedophile, that they will go to incomprehensible lengths to keep what they do in the shadows."

As you and many in the Spartan family know, I planned to retire in December 2016, and we had begun a conversation about a smooth transition. Then the Indianapolis Star article appeared about USAG and one of the victims contacted MSU police to file a complaint. The MSU Police investigation commenced.   

If you don't want to make an awful situation for others about yourself, maybe don't mention how it spoiled your retirement.

The survivors' accounts are horrific. They are tragic, heartbreaking, and personally gut-wrenching. I take solace that many victims have indicated that the opportunity to confront Nassar is a step toward healing.   

While confronting Nassar last week at his sentencing, victim Lindsey Lemke said: 

"Michigan State University, shame on you. I went public about my story back in January of 2016, and let me tell you, I was terrified. I was terrified because of what you would do to me. As a full ride scholarship athlete on the gymnastics team, I was worried about my consequences and what they would be if you realized who I was and went public about my story. How messed up is that?

"You created the type of environment where victims were afraid to speak up. Little did I know, you did this for years.

"To Lou Anna Simon, I don't even know how you are still in the position that you are in. I don't know how you can still call yourself a president, because I don't anymore. You are no president of mine as a student and former athlete of Michigan State University.

"Guess what? You're a coward, too. You say you aren't responsible for this. I wish you would come up to this podium and be half as brave as all of us have had to be the past year and a half. … To be brave enough to come up here and confidently tell us the reasons why you don't think that you are responsible."

I am proud of the exceptional work of the Special Victims Unit led by Lieutenant Andrea Munford with the steadfast leadership of Chief Dunlap. I am proud of my support of their work even though the results have been very painful to all who watched.

During the MSU police department's 19-month investigation, Nassar was allowed to still see patients. Also, Simon says she's proud of herself.

As Nassar's legal journey to prison was drawing to a close, more and more negative attention was focused on Michigan State University, and on me. I am pleased that statements have been made by Mr. Fitzgerald and Board members about my integrity and the fact that there is no cover-up.

This in a resignation letter is a strange combo of shouting out people patting you on the back despite your own school's newspaper saying to need to go while also going out of your way to declare you're not committing any crimes.

I support wholeheartedly the Board's decision to ask the Attorney General's Office to review the events surrounding the Nassar matter. This is an important step toward providing more assurance to the university community and to the public.  In the past, I have provided assurances to the Attorney General of my full cooperation, and I will continue to do so. 

How noble of you to agree to not fight a probable eventual subpoena. But now we get to the real reason for this letter. The cross, the nails, the glowing, reeking turd of it all.

As tragedies are politicized, blame is inevitable. As president, it is only natural that I am the focus of this anger. I understand, and that is why I have limited my personal statements.  Throughout my career, I have worked very hard to put Team MSU first. 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. 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. 

You. Spent. The. Whole. Resignation. Letter. Making. It. About. You.

And "politicize"? A sexual predator was enabled for decades at the university you ran. Holy hell, gall of you, Simon.

Anyone who knows me knows I am a principled person.

"Anyone who knows me" is the hallmark of bad public apologies. And this isn't even an apology. It's a self-eulogy in disgrace.

I have spent my entire professional career, more than 40 years, at MSU. I love this place. I have watched it grow and prosper, and it has been the honor and privilege of my life to serve as its president since 2005, and over the last few years, to have the opportunity to work with all of you toward our shared goals for MSU. I will continue to do whatever I can to help MSU prosper in the future as a Spartan in whatever role I may play.


Lou Anna K. Simon, President
John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor

There's little respect for most people reading that letter. The graduate program in public relations at Michigan State should devote an entire course to this letter. Besides the horrendous crimes that occurred for years, the school has been worse than anyone could have expected in how it has handled this story. 

If Simon wasn't going to at least admit she failed in any way in her duties, the final paragraph plus an apology to Nassar's victims is about all that was needed. Instead, on the day that Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for repeated sex crimes, some committed under her watch and to which she wasn't entirely oblivious, Simon made herself a victim on her way out.   

Unlike the words from the real victims in that courtroom in the last two weeks, though, hers aren't courageous. They aren't even the least bit decent.

Tim Baffoe is a columnist for Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not Entercom or our affiliated radio stations.

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