Michigan State University’s interim president, John Engler, says the school is “anxious” to settle lawsuits brought by the victims of Dr. Larry Nassar.
Nassar has been convicted of sexually abusing hundreds of women and girls when he was a sports doctor for MSU and USA Gymnastics. 312 victims have brought suits that are now in mediation.
At a Detroit Free Press event Thursday morning, Engler said MSU is looking to “work something out” with those victims.
“We think that’s in the best interest of the people who were harmed by Nassar, we think it’s in the best interest of the Michigan State community,” Engler said.
“We think settling these cases is better than litigating them. Because you litigate them, we’re going to go back through all of that again. And I’m not sure how that would be helpful to anybody.”
Engler acknowledged that any such settlement is “going to be expensive.” In the meantime, he said he’s trying to restore “a sense of calm” to the school.
“Look, we’re going to deal with this. We’re going to try to get this settlement done,” Engler said. “When the settlement’s done, we need to get these investigations wrapped up. There are multiple investigations at the federal and state level. We need to get those concluded.”
Engler wouldn’t directly answer a question about whether it was appropriate for him to have met with Nassar survivor Kaylee Lorincz and her mother. Lorincz publicly accused Engler of offering her a $250,000 payout to settle her case. Engler would only say he’s “met with multiple survivors” and would not discuss what happened in those meetings.
Engler also defended MSU basketball coach Tom Izzo and football coach Mark Dantonio, saying they dealt properly with athletes on their teams who have been accused of sexual assault.
“I think in Dantonio and Izzo, you’ve got two coaches of great personal integrity who’ve run very clean programs,” Engler said. “I’ll put the integrity of these two men and their programs against anybody in the country.”
Engler said MSU has already made a number of policy and staffing changes to ensure that Nassar’s years of abuse going unpunished “could never happen again.”
“When we’re done, I’m pretty confident Michigan State’s going to have one of the safest campuses in the country,” he said.
Engler largely dismissed a new set of suggested reforms put forth this week by trustee Brian Mosallam, who called for a new independent investigation into how the university handled allegations against Nassar over more than a decade.
“I’ve looked at it. Much of it’s rehashed of stuff that’s already being done,” Engler said, noting that he thinks Mosallam “made a mistake. If you’re a trustee, you probably should talk to your colleagues before you throw something out in the media. It could look like it’s grandstanding.”
Engler pointed out that despite continued Nassar fallout, MSU expects to welcome its largest, most diverse class ever in the fall. Asked how that could happen, Engler joked it’s because “People don’t read the press,” adding: “I think people understand quality. I think Michigan State’s been delivering value.”