En­gler: MSU ‘try­ing to go back to work’

The Detroit News - - FRONT PAGE - BY KIM KO­ZLOWSKI The Detroit News

Michi­gan State Uni­ver­sity in­terim Pres­i­dent John En­gler said Fri­day he is done with in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the uni­ver­sity’s han­dling of the Larry Nas­sar sex­ual abuse scan­dal, say­ing of­fi­cials are “try­ing to go back to work” de­spite calls from vic­tims and oth­ers for more scru­tiny to bring res­o­lu­tion and ac­count­abil­ity.

En­gler made the state­ment dur­ing a wide-rang­ing in­ter­view with The Detroit News Ed­i­to­rial Board, as he out­lined nu­mer­ous steps the uni­ver­sity has taken to cor­rect the prob­lems that al­lowed Nas­sar to prey on young women at MSU for decades.

En­gler de­fended the uni­ver­sity’s co­op­er­a­tion with the Michi­gan At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s of­fice, whose spe­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tor ac­cused the uni­ver­sity of stonewalling in­ves­ti­ga­tors in a re­port re­leased last month.

“We are pleased with the re­port,” En­gler said, “be­cause he

found no crim­i­nal wrong­do­ing and (we) vig­or­ously dis­agree with the idea that there was any­thing but full co­op­er­a­tion.”

He added that the uni­ver­sity is with­hold­ing 29 doc­u­ments un­der at­tor­ney-client priv­i­lege but if a judge rules that MSU should give them to in­ves­ti­ga­tors, “we are happy to turn those over.”

En­gler also de­fended him­self against crit­i­cism from Nas­sar vic­tims and sup­port­ers who say his words and ac­tions since be­com­ing in­terim pres­i­dent have shown dis­dain for them.

“I have great em­pa­thy for the in­di­vid­u­als who were hurt by Larry Nas­sar,” En­gler said. “They have been car­ry­ing this, in some cases, for 20 years.”

When asked whether he would sup­port an in­ves­ti­ga­tion like the one like Gen­eral Mo­tors Co. did to ex­am­ine its cul­ture dur­ing the au­tomaker’s ig­ni­tion switch re­call, En­gler said one was not needed.

“The good news is we’ve already done that,” En­gler said, cit­ing a re­port com­pleted by a Kansas City law firm in 2018.

“Husch Black­well has been there, they looked at our Ti­tle IX process, they’ve given us lots of ad­vice and based on that, we made lots of changes.”

Pressed fur­ther, En­gler said he would not sup­port an­other in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“There are some peo­ple who want to con­tinue to in­ves­ti­gate and in­quire into lots of things,” En­gler said. “I wouldn’t sup­port any more ... We’re try­ing to get rid of lawyers and con­sul­tants now. We’re try­ing to go back to work.”

En­gler’s com­ments prompted strong re­ac­tions on Twit­ter.

Ja­cob Den­hol­lan­der, the hus­band of Rachael Den­hol­lan­der, the women who first pub­licly ac­cused Nas­sar, called for En­gler to be fired.

“When you are ea­ger to ‘get back to work’ and move on from the worst case of se­rial sex­ual pre­da­tion of mi­nors in decades while ob­struct­ing at­tempts to get to the bot­tom of what hap­pened ... Well, it tells ev­ery­one a lot about what sort of a per­son you are,” Den­hol­lan­der tweeted.

He added that En­gler is “thumb­ing his nose at the board right now.”

“This is a huge test for the new board mem­bers es­pe­cially (Bri­anna Scott),” Den­hol­lan­der tweeted. “Will they sup­port ef­forts for ac­tual change and ac­count­abil­ity, or are they go­ing to be de­fend­ers of the sta­tus quo they were elected to chal­lenge?”

Kathy Hasel­maier — a Colorado res­i­dent who cre­ated an on­line ap­peal de­mand­ing that MSU re­vive a fund to cover coun­sel­ing costs for Nas­sar’s vic­tims — tweeted that she was con­fused by the sen­ti­ments En­gler ex­pressed.

“Be­cause it erodes the trust that was start­ing to be re­built dur­ing the re­cent MSU Board of Trustees meet­ing,” Hasel­maier wrote. “Why is (En­gler) un­der­min­ing progress made by the trustees? Why not pro­mote heal­ing in­stead of run­ning from the truth?”

Ear­lier this week after an MSU board meet­ing, Trustee Brian Mos­al­lam told re­porters he has called three times for an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion. He pointed to a 2014 re­port that GM com­mis­sioned by for­mer U.S. At­tor­ney An­ton R. Valukas, which ex­plored how faulty ig­ni­tion switches caused more than 50 crashes and at least 13 deaths — a num­ber that was later re­vised to

124.

Mos­al­lam and oth­ers have called for that re­view to ex­am­ine the cul­ture prob­lems that led to Nas­sar’s crimes, and go be­yond the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s re­cent in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“The at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice was look­ing for crim­i­nal­ity,” Mos­al­lam said. “I wanted a re­port on ac­count­abil­ity: who, what, where, when.”

Mos­al­lam said he sent an email last year to one of MSU’s law firms, ask­ing for a decision on whether to con­duct an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion, in­clud­ing priv­i­leged in­for­ma­tion, and pro­duce a pub­lic re­port.

But Mos­al­lam said his re­quest was blocked by Brian Bres­lin, the for­mer chair of the board. He said that Bres­lin told him, “We’re not go­ing to go down that road.”

Bres­lin could not be reached for com­ment Fri­day.

With sev­eral new mem­bers join­ing the board this month, Mos­al­lam said he will dis­cuss putting to­gether a re­port to “show trans­parency.”

Mos­al­lam, who was de­feated in a bid to be elected board chair ear­lier this week, is not the only one to call for an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

After Trustee Joel Fer­gu­son suc­cess­fully nom­i­nated Trustee Dianne Byrum as chair of the board this week, Rachael Den­hol­lan­der tweeted five things that Byrum has re­fused to do.

Among them was open­ing an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“We asked for this for months,” Den­hol­lan­der tweeted. “It took Penn State only a few days to take this step. MSU never did. And then they re­fused to co­op­er­ate with the AG’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion. You want change? Find out what needs to change first. In­ves­ti­gate.”

En­gler

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