U.S. Senators grilled former Michigan governor John Engler about his leadership at Michigan State University. Engler is currently interim president of MSU.
The hearing was one of three so far in response to Larry Nassar, the former MSU sports doctor who sexually assaulted his patients for decades and will spend decades in prison.
Engler came under fire during the hearing for statements he made about some survivors and recent hires at the school.
Senator Gary Peters, D-Michigan, asked a question on survivors’ minds: “If your presence is so harmful to survivors why should you keep your job?”
Engler said that during his time at MSU the school has been transformed to a place where a situation like the Nassar case could never happen again.
“Under my leadership accountability is being instilled across the university,” he said, adding that more students are willing to come forward with sexual assault complaints on campus, in part, because of policy changes and stronger mandatory reporting for employees.
New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan criticized Engler during a committee hearing. She called Engler out for emails he sent that said Nassar’s survivors were being manipulated by trial lawyers.
“They have survived unspeakable abuse,” she said. “And the notion that you would think they could be manipulated by trial lawyers and that you would speak of them that way. Is just deeply, deeply offensive.”
A Senate subcommittee has held two other hearings in response to Nassar. Lawmakers say they are trying to figure out policies and changes they can make to prevent another Nassar situation.