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MSU Trustees to fire Engler if he doesn't resign

Kate Wells
Michigan Radio

“John Engler’s reign of terror is over.”

That was the message from Michigan State University trustee Brian Mosallam via Twitter Wednesday, as the board gathered enough votes to fire Engler following his latest insensitive comments about Nassar survivors.

Listen above to hear Stateside's conversation with Kate Wells about the calls for Engler's resignation. 

Last Friday, interim President John Engler told the Detroit News Editorial Board that some of the sexual assault survivors were“enjoying” the “spotlight.”

“You’ve got people, they are hanging on and this has been … there are a lot of people who are touched by this, survivors who haven’t been in the spotlight," Engler told the News. "In some ways they have been able to deal with this better than the ones who’ve been in the spotlight who are still enjoying that moment at times, you know, the awards and recognition. And it’s ending. It’s almost done.”

Rachael Denhollander, the first Nassar survivor to publicly come forward and file a criminal complaint against Nassar in 2016, took to Twitter in response.

“Engler references survivors enjoying their time in the spotlight,” Denhollander said in a tweet last week. “You mean, like having to change the day I grocery shop so my 3 kids don't see a photo of their mom demonstrating what was done to her body? Tell me more about how enjoyable this spotlight is.”

The pressure on MSU to get rid of Engler grew as national outlets picked up Engler's comments over the last couple of days.

On Wednesday, newly election board chair Dianne Byrum announced trustees would hold an unexpected meeting Thursday morning. There was just one item on the agenda: “discuss a personnel action.”

By Wednesday afternoon, Mosallam said he was confident a “simple majority” of board members would vote to remove Engler. His comments last week were “the final straw” for the three new board members, Mosallam says.

“And I knew when [new board members] Kelly Tebay and Nancy Schlichting called me with concern – that is the first time other trustees had ever called me after his comments – I knew this board was headed in a different direction.”

Within hours, reports started circulating that Engler was expected to resign before the board could fire him. If Engler does go, the board will need to immediately name a new interim president. MSU is expected to hire a permanent president this summer. 

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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