MSU board members release statement on Engler's email comments

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EAST LANSING, Mich. (WILX) A report in The Chronicle of Higher Education says Michigan State University Interim President John Engler said Nassar survivor Rachael Denhollander was likely going to get a kickback for manipulating other survivors.

The article says that comes from an email the Chronicle obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. In it, Engler thanks special counsel Carol Viventi for her support and says,

"At least we know what really happened. The survivors now are being manipulated by trial lawyers who in the end will each get millions of dollars more than any of (sic) individual survivors with the exception of Denhollander who is likely to get (sic) kickback from Manley (sic) for her role in the trial lawyer manipulation.

The Chronicle says Engler was thanking Viventi for her support after Nassar survivor Kaylee Lorincz accused him of trying to pay her to drop her lawsuit during a meeting without her lawyer present.

Rachael Denhollander was the first survivor to go public with her accusations against Nassar. The story in the Indy Star in August of 2016 led to an investigation that got Nassar fired from Michigan State and eventually brought up on criminal charges. He eventually pleaded guilty to federal child pornography charges as well as state sexual assault charges in Ingham and Eaton County. He is serving what amounts to a life sentence. Denhollander has been a vocal presence in both the criminal cases and the civil lawsuits filed against Nassar, MSU, the Board of Trustees. USA Gymnastics, Twistars and John Geddert.

Michigan State's Board of Trustees approved a $500 million settlement with 332 survivors in May. The will split $425 million with the exact amount based on how often they were abused and the specific type of abuse. The other $75 million will be put into a fund for any other survivors who come forward in the next two years. The Board is expected to formally approve the settlement at its June 22 meeting.

In response MSU Trustee Dianne Byrum released a statement saying Interim President John Engler's emails are completely unacceptable and tone death, and he should publicly apologize immediately and denounce his comments.
"Interim President John Engler’s emails released today are completely unacceptable and tone deaf and he should publicly apologize immediately and denounce these insensitive comments. We need to be focused on culture change at MSU and allow the healing process to begin, and statements like these from Interim President Engler and his advisors are hurtful, counterproductive and unnecessary.”

MSU Trustee Brian Mosallam also weighed in, he said, "I am extremely troubled and disappointed. The Interim President's tone and conduct is embarrassing."

Rachel Denhollander spoke out on Twitter, saying "Engler and Viventi truly think victims who speak up and seek justice are manipulating for personal gain. They are incapable of understanding the impact of sexual assault, bringing accountability, or creating a safe culture for survivors to speak up."

News 10 and wilx.com have reached out to MSU spokeswoman Emily Guerrant for a response to the Chronicle article. We will have an update when she replies.

On Thursday, June 14, MSU Trustee Candidate Teri Lyn Bernero called for the immediate termination of interim MSU President John Engler by the MSU Board of Trustees.

“The attitude reflected by John Engler is contrary to a culture of concern and safety which is of utmost importance now at the University,” Bernero wrote. “The Board must understand that there is no way Mr. Engler can muster the credibility and moral authority to lead during this critical juncture in MSU’s history. Sadly, he has demonstrated loudly and clearly that he is not the right person for the job. Mr. Engler may be politically powerful, but I implore you to put politics aside and do what is right for the survivors and indeed for Spartan Nation. Turn the page on John Engler now.”

She wrote a letter to the MSU Board stating that Engler's comments about Nassar survivors in recently disclosed emails were "vile and cruel."

“These abhorrent remarks are the last straw for me and for many people who love MSU and want to see the university move forward with real institutional and cultural reforms that protect students and create a safe environment for learning,” Bernero wrote. “None of that can happen when the leader of the institution repeatedly demonstrates that he is unfit for the job due to his bullying demeanor and insulting remarks toward the survivors.”

Her complete letter is attached to this article.