The president of Michigan State University has resigned after mounting pressure in the wake of the sexual abuse scandal involving the disgraced former gymnastics physician Larry Nassar.
Lou Anna Simon announced her resignation just hours after Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing young athletes. She had faced calls to quit amid concerns about her lack of response to complaints about Nassar.
Almost 160 women, including Michigan State alumni, have alleged since September 2016 that Nassar sexually abused them under the pretence of giving them medical treatment.
The former USA Gymnastics team doctor was a professor at the university’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, as well as a sports physician for the university, until 2016.
Last week, Mitch Lyons, a trustee of the university, broke ranks and called for Professor Simon to step down, a day after the board issued a statement declaring its support for the president.
A story in The Detroit News claims that reports of sexual misconduct by Dr Nassar from eight women reached at least 14 Michigan State University representatives, including Professor Simon, in the two decades before his arrest.
In a statement on 24 January, Professor Simon said she had planned to retire in December 2016 but her transition was postponed in the wake of complaints about Nassar.
“To the survivors, I can never say enough that I am so sorry that a trusted, renowned physician was really such an evil, evil person who inflicted such harm under the guise of medical treatment. I know that we all share the same resolve to do whatever it takes to avert such tragedies here and elsewhere,” she said.
“As tragedies are politicised, blame is inevitable. As president, it is only natural that I am the focus of this anger,” she added.
Quoted by The Detroit News, Professor Simon said that she “did not receive a copy” of reports alleging wrongdoing by Nassar.
The university is facing legal action by several women who allege that the institution’s negligence allowed the abuse to occur.