The school said Simon also will retain her titles of president emeritus and professor emeritus, though her retirement agreement stipulates “public recognition of Dr. Simon’s emeritus status may be withheld if the pending criminal charges result in a felony conviction that is upheld after all post-trial motions and appellate issues are finally adjudicated.”
“Michigan State is on the precipice of a new chapter under the leadership of President [Samuel L.] Stanley,” Simon said in a school-issued statement. “I appreciate the efforts of the university to facilitate my transition to emeritus status that corresponds to this new chapter. I will continue my scholarly pursuits and community engagement, particularly in Traverse City in retirement.”
Authorities allege Simon knew in 2014 that a 24-year-old Michigan State graduate had accused Nassar — a sports doctor at the school and the longtime team physician for the U.S. women’s gymnastics team — of sexually abusing her at a campus clinic and that she lied to police to protect the school’s reputation. Simon claims that she only knew that a complaint had been lodged against a sports doctor at the school, not that it specifically was Nassar, and that authorities have failed to provide evidence that she knew about the 2014 sexual assault complaint against Nassar.
Last week, attorneys for the state and for Simon gave closing statements in a preliminary court hearing over whether Simon will stand trial. Eaton County District Judge Julie Reincke will next go over written briefs before issuing her decision, which likely won’t happen until the fall.
In May 2018, Michigan State announced it had agreed to pay out $425 million to settle lawsuits filed by 332 alleged Nassar victims and would set aside another $75 million in a trust fund for any victims who come forward in the future. Nassar is serving what amounts to a lifetime prison sentence for possessing child pornography and molesting young athletes.
Simon is at least the third official to lose his or her job in the wake of the Nassar scandal yet receive a significant buyout. Scott Blackmun, who resigned as chief executive of the U.S. Olympic Committee in February 2018 amid criticism of his perceived reluctance to intervene in a series of sex abuse scandals, including the one involving Nassar, received a $2.4 million severance package. Blackmun also has been accused by two U.S. senators of lying to Congress in written testimony given to a Senate subcommittee during a June 2018 hearing on sexual abuse within American Olympic sports.
Steve Penny, who resigned as president and chief executive of USA Gymnastics in March 2017 over that organization’s mishandling of multiple sexual abuse allegations, received a $1 million severance package. Last year, a grand jury in Walker County, Tex., indicted Penny on a felony charge of tampering with evidence, alleging he ordered the removal of documents relating to Nassar’s treatment of gymnasts from a Texas facility to hinder the investigation and destroy or hide the documents.
Penny pleaded not guilty, with his attorney claiming that Penny had the documents sent from Texas to USA Gymnastics headquarters in Indianapolis “for safekeeping.”
John Manly, the attorney for many of Nassar’s victims, noted to the Detroit Free Press that the combined payouts given to Simon, Blackman and Penny are more than double what has been awarded to any Nassar victim.
“The board should get together and fight having to pay any money to her,” he told the Free Press. “Who says crime doesn’t pay? [Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel] should fight to claw back that money.
“The message this sends is it is just business as usual [at MSU].”