Nassar - AP

FILE - In this Nov. 22, 2017, file photo, Dr. Larry Nassar appears in court for a plea hearing in Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

Michigan State: Bonds Will Pay For $500M Nassar Settlement

June 22, 2018 - 10:50 am
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LANSING (WWJ/AP) - Michigan State University will sell bonds to pay for a $500 million settlement with hundreds of women and girls who said they were sexually assaulted by former sports doctor Larry Nassar.

Trustees approved the plan Friday after rejecting calls to fire interim President John Engler for unflattering emails that disparaged victims and their lawyers. 

Michigan State is freezing salaries for top administrative and leadership roles and raising faculty salaries by 1.5 percent instead of the typical 2.5 percent. Engler also is counting on payments from insurance companies.

Tuition will be higher for most students in fall, but Engler says the new revenue won't help cover the Nassar settlement.

The university previously said $425 million of the settlement will be paid to 332 current claimants and $75 million will be set aside in a trust fund to protect any future claimants alleging sexual abuse by Nassar.

[How $500 Million Settlement Will Be Paid To Victims Of Larry Nassar]

Some 150 of Nassar's victims have joined a public crusade to force Engler out of the interim job. The former Michigan governor apologized Thursday for his April email exchange suggesting gymnast Rachael Denhollander probably received a "kickback" from her plaintiff's attorney.

"I didn't give it the consideration it warranted," Engler said in a statement. "That was a big mistake. I was wrong. I apologize."

Trustee board chairman Brian Breslin called Engler's apology "appropriate and appreciated by a majority of the board." One of the two trustees who turned on Engler, Dianne Byrum, said she is glad he apologized and hopes he learned from it. But Brian Mosallam, the first trustee to demand that Engler step down, said the apology "is too little too late."

Denhollander said she appreciates Engler's gesture but remains convinced he cannot lead the university forward.

"I am disappointed that it took eight days and came on the heels of intense political pressure," she said on Thursday. "The most disturbing thing is that these comments are not isolated. They are a pattern that reveals a mindset toward assault survivors. And words don't change that mindset."

Denhollander said Engler, who did not address her by name in the statement, did not reach out personally to apologize.

When asked in a Thursday interview with The Associated Press why his apology took a week, Engler said he was traveling out of state and "wasn't as focused on it." He said when he returned and realized the reaction, he wanted to make his position clear in an apology.

Engler touted some of the policies the university has implemented to avert future crises like the Nassar one.

"Could another Larry Nassar ever emerge in Michigan State?" Engler said. "I think the answer quite clearly is no because of the policies that have all been changed."

Engler was tapped in February to temporarily lead the university after the crisis surrounding Nassar, who abused hundreds of girls and women under the guise of medical treatment while employed at Michigan State. Nassar is now serving a decades-long prison sentence for molesting patients and possessing child pornography.

However, Engler's presidency has become tangled in further public relations scandals of his own doing. The backlash reached a fever pitch last week, when media reports revealed the emails he sent in April criticizing lawyers for Nassar's sexual assault victims and suggesting that Denhollander, the first woman to go public with her accusations, was probably getting a "kickback" from her attorney.

"The survivors now are being manipulated by trial lawyers who in the end will each get millions of dollars more than any of individual survivors with the exception of Denhollander who is likely to get kickback from Manley," Engler said, misspelling attorney John Manly's name.

He was found to have exchanged the emails following allegations at a stormy public meeting that Engler was trying to pay off another Nassar survivor, Kaylee Lorincz, without her lawyer's input. Engler later said he remembered the events differently and that "I am sorry if anything said during the meeting was misunderstood."

In his Thursday statement, Engler said when he started as president in February he never meant to have an adversarial relationship with some of Nassar's victims. He said his speculation about Denhollander "hurt her deeply," and other survivors "suffered greatly."

A grass-roots student group has garnered at least 1,000 signatures in its petition calling for Engler's ouster and is not backing down.