By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — The president search continues for the Michigan State University Presidential Search Committee after former interim president John Engler resigned from the position on Jan. 17.
The search committee is working on bringing forward a list of candidates to the MSU Board of Trustees according to the committee’s website.
MSU Trustee Brian Mosallam, a graduate of Fordson High School, said the search has been going very well and that there is a strong pool of candidates. After candidates are brought to the search committee, applications will be revised, interviews will be conducted through May and a new president selected in June, according to the committee’s website.
The search firm Storbeck-Pimentel with lead consultant Shelly Storbeck is working with the 19-member search committee to appoint a new university president.
During the search, MSU Executive Vice President for Administration Satish Udpa was named interim president.
The need for a new president began in January 2018 after former MSU President Lou Anna Simon resigned in the wake of ex-MSU Doctor Larry Nassar’ sexual abuse scandal.
In January 2017, 18 victims came forward against Nassar, MSU, USA Gynamstics and Twistars Gymnastics Club with allegations of sexual assault, battery, harassment and molestation from 1996 to 2006, according to the Lansing State Journal.
Shortly after, the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs suspended Nassar’s medical licenses due to received complaints against the doctor.
In October 2017, three members of the Fierce Five team from the 2012 Olympics Gold Medal-winning gymnastics team publicly announced they were sexually assaulted by Nassar. Two months later, then-Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette asked Simon to release findings of the internal review former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald was conducing into Nassar’s actions while an employee at MSU, according to the Lansing State Journal.
United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan Judge Janet Neff sentenced Nassar to 60 years in federal prison on the three counts of child pornography charges he admitted to, 20 years in prison on each count in December 2017.
Nassar also pleaded guilty to seven and three criminal sexual conduct charges in both Ingham and Eaton counties, respectively. He was sentenced to up to 175 years in a state prison in January 2018 by 30th Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina.
The following month, 56th Circuit Court Judge Janice Cunningham sentenced Nassar to a minimum of 40 years and a maximum of 125 years for the charges brought against him in both counties.
By the end of Nassar’s court appearances and sentencings it was believed that almost 200 victims of the doctor spoke out with testimonies about his abusive actions.
As the Nassar cases were playing out in the court systems, Simon resigned in January 2018 and faces charges in the 56th Circuit Court for lying to the police investigating Nassar for sexual assault in 2014.
When Simon resigned, Engler was appointed interim president at the end of January 2018. He officially left the position on Jan. 23 with an 11-page letter following pressure from the MSU Board of Trustees. Engler resigned just as a Jan. 16 special board meeting was scheduled with the intent of firing him.
The resignation was a result of comments made in a Detroit News editorial board where Engler said the Nassar survivors are “enjoying the spotlight.”
Mosallam said he was the first to call on Engler to step down following the comments.
“He lacked empathy, compassion and did not understand the difference between being a sitting governor and a university president of a world class institution,” Mosallam said. “I was very active and supportive of acting president Udpa’s appointment. I have worked with him for over six years and I can unequivocally say he is a wonderful human being who possesses all the traits we need at this moment in our history.”
When asked about serving on the board as the allegations against Nassar started to become public, the entire Nassar era and Engler’s comments Mosallam said it has been “interesting to say the least.”
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think something of this magnitude would come to my doorstep,” he said. “But I would not trade places with anyone at this time. In some ways I was made for these kind of crisis, but in other ways nothing can prepare you for this.
“I think my message and tone has been clear from day one: to show contrition and to let my values and morals drive my decision making not the advice of lawyers.
“I’ve said enough about Engler. He is old news.”
For updates on the MSU presidential search go to www.msu.edu/presidentialsearch.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected].)