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MSU Trustee Nancy Schlichting Resigns After Board Cancels Plans For Independent Investigation

Nancy Schlichting, second from left,  stands behind MSU Trustee Melanie Foster.  She served under a year of the remainder of George Perles' term before resigning, citing trustees unwillingness to waive privilege and conduct an independent investigation.
Alec Gerstenberger, WKAR
Nancy Schlichting, second from left, stands behind MSU Trustee Melanie Foster. She served under a year of the remainder of George Perles' term before resigning, citing trustees unwillingness to waive privilege and conduct an independent investigation.

Nancy Schlichting has resigned from the Michigan State University Board of Trustees after serving under a year of the remaining four years of George Perles’ term. She sent a letter to Governor Gretchen Whitmer over the weekend resigning from her post citing the board's unwillingness to conduct an independent investigation of the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal. 

Nassar, the now convicted former MSU sports medicine doctor, assaulted dozens of women under the guise of medical treatment.

Schlichting was appointed by outgoing Governor Rick Snyder to fill George Perles’ seat on the board, and many heralded her appointment as an independent watchdog of the board without deep ties to the Spartan community.

Schlichting Out After Board Abandons Independent Investigation

The board announced plans to conduct an independent investigationat their June board meeting. However, at one of the first meetings of new MSU president Samuel Stanley’s tenure—the board walked back that proposition.

Trustees Kelly Tebay, Brian Mosallam, Dan Kelly and Schlichting worked with three survivors to pitch an independent investigation after facing fervent pressure and requests from the survivor community and politicians including Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and Governor Gretchen Whitmer. 

Prominent survivors Rachael Denhollander, Sterling Riethman, and Sarah Klein worked with the trustees to organize the investigation.  

In a statement Monday afternoon Nessel said she respected Schlichting’s decision to step down and made a plea to the Governor.

“I hope Gov. Whitmer appoints someone committed to transparency, which includes waiving privilege on the nearly 6,000 documents our department has yet to see so that we may complete our comprehensive investigation,” said Nessel.

Schlichting said, “I joined the Board to help change the attitudes and beliefs of the legacy Board members towards the extraordinary young women who have survived sexual assault by Larry Nassar, and to support the survivors in every way I could.”

However, she noted over the course of her tenure on the board demands for an independent investigation were met with reticence from some board members.

Letter Casts Four Trustees As Opposition Force

“During the last year, though, it has become very clear to me that my commitment to have an independent review of the Nassar situation, and to waive privilege so the truth can come out, is not shared by the MSU Board Chair, legacy Board members, and some newer trustees,” said Schlichting.

Board Chair Dianne Byrum released a statement through the university spokeswoman saying, “Nancy was appointed to our board last year during a difficult transitional period for the university,” Byrum said. “I’m grateful that she took on the role and helped us with the challenges we are facing.”

Schlichting cited Byrum, “legacy board members” like Melanie Foster and Joel Ferguson, as well as “newer trustee” Brianna Scott as the main oppositional forces that killed plans for an independent investigation.

Sterling Riethman, one of the three survivors's tasked with collaborating with the trustees on an indepdent investigation lambasted the four oppositional trustees after they announced the board would renege on the proposal in September.

In a statement provided to WKAR, Trustee Brian Mosallam said, “Nancy Schlichting was a much-needed breath of fresh air sent to Michigan State University. She brought a level of decorum, professionalism and civility to this Board. I share in Nancy’s frustration in not completing the independent investigation that we had worked on for several months with our three survivors. Today is a sad day. Nancy will be sorely missed.”

Stanley Sad To See Schlichting Go

MSU’s new president Samuel Stanley Jr. released a statement lamenting Schlichting’s resignation.

“Nancy brought tremendous experience managing large organizations to her role on the MSU Board of Trustees,” said MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.

His statement continued, “I’m sorry that she is stepping down, but I wish her much personal success and happiness with her other projects. We valued her insight and contributions while she was with us.”

Governor Whitmer will now be tasked with appointing Schlichting’s  successor to fill the remainder of Perles’ term. Perles resigned in 2018 for health reasons, according to the school. The seat will be up for grab, when the public elects a new board member in the 2022 statewide election.

Follow Abigail Censky on Twitter: @Abigail Censky

Amanda Barberena and Maxim Jenkins contributed to this reporting

Abigail Censky reported on Politics & Government at WKAR from 2018 to 2021. Now, she reports for The Colorado Springs Gazette and edits for The Catalyst Newspaper.
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