Higher Ed Chronicle: "All Eyes" on MSU Because of Nassar and Simon

Jan 23, 2018

A reporter with the Chronicle of Higher Education said people around the country are closely watching the testimony of Larry Nassar's victims and calls for Michigan State University president Lou Anna K. Simon to step down.


This month, the Ingham County court heard statements from more than 150 women and girls who said they were molested by Larry Nassar. The sports doctor awaits sentencing after admitting to sexually assaulting athletes under his care at Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics.

The case is being followed closely nationally according to reporter Fernanda Zamudio-Suarez who wrote about the Nassar case and calls for the resignation of MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon for The Chronicle of Higher Education. She talked with WKAR's Reginald Hardwick about how both are shaping MSU's reputation nationally.

Hardwick: The impact statements at the Larry Nassar hearing and calls for MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon to step down have thrust our area into the national spotlight. For some perspective, I am joined on the phone by Fernanda Zamudio-Suarez, correspondent with The Chronicle of Higher Education. Thanks for joining us.

Zamudio-Suarez: Thanks for having me.

Hardwick: We're hearing gut-wrenching testimony from so many young women victims. Do you think this is scarring MSU's reputation nationally?

Zamudio-Suarez: I think that a lot of the testimonies that we've heard through the course of the week have really amped up as the week goes on. It's definitely putting MSU into the national spotlight. We've seen editorials just this weekend from Jamele Hill, from the undefeated, from Buzzfeed, the Chicago Tribune and other papers that are really calling for action on MSU's behalf.

I don't know if it’s quite there that its damaging your reputation, but this is what people are talking about.

Hardwick: Although some are calling for President Simon to step down, it's not unanimous. What does it say about MSU nationally?

Zamudio-Suarez: I think that the situation with the leadership of the university, how the board of the trustees is backing her, minus one trustee who this weekend stated his opposition to back Lou Anna K. Simon.

I think that leadership debacles like this, this is what people are talking about and some people are saying, “oh her days are numbered.” The editorials that have come out against Lou Anna K. Simon have also called for her resignation like the one in the student paper.

But ultimately the board, the people that matter most, are supporting her so it has definitely caused a lot of people to just watch this university.

Hardwick: You wrote the Penn State’s football program was hit with state penalties for its mishandling of the Jerry Sandusky case where he was assaulting young students. Are you seeing a lot of people drawing parallels to this situation at Penn State or are they saying its different?

Zamudio-Suarez: Yeah, I’ve seen quite a few people who, especially when they are writing editorials or opinion pieces, who are drawing parallels to the situation at Penn State. I haven’t spoken with anyone in my reporting who have said that, but those parallels are being drawn in terms of opinion pieces and editorials.

Hardwick: Other than this scandal, what is President Simon’s reputation as a national leader or nationally among colleges?

Zamudio-Suarez:  Right, that’s a great question. She’s been the president of Michigan State University since 2005 and she has some vocal supporters on the faculty and at least a majority of the board is backing her.

So, for somebody to be the president for that long of a big institution, like Michigan State, that’s pretty significant. There must be something about her leadership or her mastery as an academic politician, the way that she’s been able to fundraise has been pretty significant for the university. So, there must be something else, other ties that are really grounding her there as a leader.

You don’t usually see presidents stick around as long as she has especially at big institutions like Michigan State, so that I think makes it an even more interesting case to watch.

Hardwick: We know you’ll be watching this. Thanks for joining us, Fernanda Zamudio-Suarez, with The Chronicle of Higher Education, for joining us on the phone.

Zamudio-Suarez: Thanks so much.