The Michigan State University Board of Trustees held its first meeting since the controversial decision to cut the Healing Assistance Fund. The fund earmarked $10 million for survivors of Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse to allow them to access counseling and mental health services.
Eleven of the 12 people who gave testimony during the public comment portion of the meeting were there to address the HAF being cut. The school announced last week that it would move the remaining $8 million dollars to a qualified survivor settlement fund comprised of 332 women who sued the university. Moving the money, the school said, would allow them to borrow less while financing the $425 million settlement fund.
Many survivors and critics allege this puts women who were relying on the resources provided through the HAF, as well as counselors and clinicians administering the therapy, in a tough spot. If an individual was not a party to a lawsuit then they could lose the resources to pay for treatment.
Trustee Brian Mosallam opposed the move. He said he’s frustrated but optimistic.
“Hopefully reinforcements are on their way here in January, so we’ll see how things shake out with the new trustees," he said.
Democrats Brianna Scott and Kelly Tebay will join the board of January. Both incoming trustees and trustee Dianne Byrum signed Mosallam’s statement condemning the decision to end the HAF and move the money to the settlement fund.
Interim President John Engler said he thinks the amount of money in the settlement fund is enough.
“We think 475-million [dollars] transferred to the survivors is a big, big statement," said Engler.
Mosallam says he hopes the two newly elected trustees that will join the board next year will mean enough votes to reinstate the fund or create something similar.
One survivor at today’s board meeting, Larissa Boyce, pointed out after the meeting that only one trustee, Brian Mosallam, mentioned the demise of the fund.
“It showed that they really don’t have any type of backbone. They couldn’t even acknowledge it. So, once again, very disappointing that they’re trying to ignore the situation,” said Boyce.
This was the last meeting for outgoing trustees Brian Breslin and Mitch Lyons, two Republicans who did not run for re-election.
Breslin chose not to run for another term this year. In closing remarks, he grew emotional while praising survivors.
“Because of their courage in coming forward, they helped put a terrible criminal in jail. They pointed out to us where our weaknesses were here, and because of that, we’ve been able to go to work on them and we will continue to go on working on them, I have no doubt about that.”
Mitch Lyons, another Republican, also did not run for re-election.
Democrats Scott and Tebay will take their place after winning 8-year terms in November.
Democrat George Perles recently resigned his seat, and Republican Gov. Rick Snyder will choose his replacement for the remaining four years on his term.