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In Great Compensation Ends Responsibility

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Lou Anna Simon has submitted a highly postmature resignation. Before he get to her pathetic resignation letter, let’s start here:

The presidents of Michigan’s two most prominent public universities are among the highest-paid leaders of universities in the nation, a new survey released Sunday by the Chronicle of Higher Education shows.

Michigan State University’s Lou Anna K. Simon cracked the top 10 when it came to total compensation, pulling in $850,000. That’s the sixth-highest total compensation.

Since that $850K apparently includes only her base salary and bonuses, it is nearly certain that her total compensation runs easily into the 7 figures once you count healthcare, pensions, automobile, travel and housing subsidies, etc. This compensation is a scandal in itself. But, at any rate, given this pay package she should have resigned as soon as Rachael Denhollander’s story hit the Indianapolis Star. You can’t be so essential to the operation of the university to justify that kind of compensation and then ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ when an institutional failure that massive occurs under your watch, even if you didn’t personally mishandle anything.

But of course, it’s much worse than that. I mentioned this in comments to Paul’s post yesterday, but I would urge you to watch Denhollander’s testimony starting around 10:30 or reading it here. She points out the number of times MSU authority figures brushed of credible claims that Nassar assaulted them. She points out that when Amanda Thomas Shaw came forward in 2014 and brought a Title IX complaint, Nassar was able to pick the experts, all of whom had ties to him and at least one of whom was a friend. This investigation remarkably concluded that digital penetration, ungloved and unlubrciated, was a legitimate treatment for hip pain. She details the very specific evidence she brought against Nassar in 2016, only to be treated dismissively by MSU officials (after having been taken seriously by the MSU police.) Consider this highly intelligent woman’s testimony, and then consider what one of Nassar’s expert cronies concluded:

…the response of Dean William Strampel was to send an email to Larry that day and tell him, quote, good luck, I am on your side. And when my video testimony to the Indy Star came out, graphically describing the abuse that Larry perpetrated disclosing horrific details to the world that no one was ever supposed to know that I had never told anyone, even my own husband, until that point, Dean Strampel forwarded that video testimony to the MSU provost, and he locked it.

He called it the cherry on the cake of his day. President Simon and board of trustees, is this the right way to handle disclosures of abuse on MSU’s campus? When Brooke Lemmen, one of the doctors Larry was allowed to hand pick to clear himself in 2014, was interviewed for my investigation, she said I hadn’t really been penetrated — I only thought I had because quote, when I am a 15-year-old girl I think everything between my legs is my vagina. I was just confused. Sounds eerily familiar to what Amanda Thomas Shaw was told in 2014 that she, quote, didn’t understand the nuanced differences between sexual assault and a medical exam.

The appalling truth is that we can’t be entirely sure that even a genuinely impartial and independent investigation wouldn’t have cleared Nassar. Misogyny and a tendency to defer to male medical professionals isn’t only strong within MSU. But it’s a moot point. MSU didn’t conduct an impartial or independent investigation when credible charges were brought in 2014. It might have met its bare legal requirements under the Civil Rights Act but it certainly didn’t meet its ethical and legal obligations. And there’s absolutely no way this doesn’t ultimately hang on the president of the university.

Despite which Simon fails to take serious responsibility:

As tragedies are politicized, blame is inevitable. As president, it is only natural that I am the focus of this anger. I understand, and that is why I have limited my personal statements. Throughout my career, I have worked very hard to put Team MSU first. Throughout my career, I have consistently and persistently spoken and worked on behalf of Team MSU. I have tried to make it not about me. I urge those who have supported my work to understand that I cannot make it about me now. Therefore, I am tendering my resignation as president according to the terms of my employment agreement.

A millions bucks a year really should buy you more leadership than that.

In related reading,here’s a good selection of quotes from the testimony. This is a very useful timeline. See also Pierce.

PC: In characteristic fashion, the Detroit Free Press can’t even copy and paste somebody else’s work accurately. It would be grotesque enough if Simon’s nearly seven figure base compensation was actually the sixth highest among university presidents, (and Jim Harbaugh et. al.’s obscene salaries don’t in any way mitigate that judgment, they just exacerbate it) but it’s actually nowhere close to that. The FREEP article is inadvertently citing only base salaries of presidents at public universities. In 2015, 58 presidents at private colleges and universities had compensation packages of more than $1 million, and 23 of them were being paid more than $2 million. As Scott points out, Simon’s total compensation package most likely bumps her over the one million threshold, but she still probably isn’t one of the top 50 highest paid college CEOs (le mot juste) in the country.

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