Months before enrollment size is announced, Michigan State University interim President John Engler said Wednesday that early figures show it would go up slightly next year despite the Larry Nassar scandal that has rocked the university.
“We’re telling every parent of every child that is coming to Michigan State you are going to come to a campus where it is incredibly safe, where there is a new level of attention to detail and a new level of responsiveness should there be anything that is unseemly,” Engler said.
Engler made the comment during an interview on WJR-AM’s “Paul W. Smith Show,” where he addressed numerous issues facing the university post-Nassar; the now-incarcerated doctor who sexually abused young women during medical treatments.
Among the issues that Engler spoke about was the controversy that erupted at the last board meeting, when Kaylee Lorincz, a Nassar accuser, publicly shared alleged details of a meeting with him, other university officials and her mother.
During the meeting, Lorincz alleged that Engler asked her what it would take to settle her lawsuit, and allegedly offered her $250,000 — which some viewed as a payoff. Engler also allegedly told her that Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to publicly accuse Nassar, had given him a figure to settle her lawsuit, which Denhollander later said was a lie.
Smith, who introduced Engler as a “good friend,” asked him if he regretted telling Lorincz her time was up after three minutes — a call that infuriated the crowd.
“We do have a procedure that allows people to have three minutes, not 30 minutes or 13 minutes,” Engler said.
His response was a contrast to Ingham County Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, who told The Detroit News in her first interview published Wednesday that Lorincz should have been allowed to speak longer.
“I don’t like girls being shut down,” Aquilina said. “Everyone has the right to be heard.”
Engler also said everyone has different memories of what happened in the meeting with Lorincz.
“We should have taped it, and everyone could have listened to it and made their own judgment,” Engler said.
But he added that it would have been pointless to try and settle one when there are more than 300 civil lawsuits to settle.
“Our goal is to get them all resolved, all of the different claims, to get that part behind us,” Engler said.
Engler’s interview comes on the same day that MSU and Nassar’s accusers have begun a second round of mediation talks. Held in New York, the mediation is scheduled through Thursday, and several involved said they hope the process could help both sides reach a resolution.
“We’re hopeful,” Engler said. “We don’t want years of lawsuits and trials and all of that. This needs to be worked.”
The purpose of mediation, Engler said, is to arrive at a settlement that is equitable and recognizes that all parties have concerns.
“Certainly, if you’ve been a victim of Larry Nassar you have a concern that is needing to be addressed, and we are going to do that,” Engler said.
The university has been putting in new policies and making changes. But there is more work on the horizon, Engler said.
“The harder work — and I don’t mean to say that it’s not hard to get litigation resolved — but the harder work and the ongoing work will be the safer campus agenda,” Engler said.
MSU is committed to dealing with any misconduct it can find, even beyond Nassar. Engler said awareness of the former USA Gymnastics doctor’s horrific crimes has given others the courage to come forward to speak about past misconduct of others. He said he recently spoke with a woman who had allegedly been victimized by a faculty member.
“If there is a problem, we are going to root it out today,” Engler said. “We want this campus to be one of great tolerance and great respect. We are not going to put up with misbehavior because someone is in a position where they have power over someone else ... I’ve told people all along: Michigan State is going to come out of this stronger.”
He also said he told the board he wants to leave the university in a position so that it attracts the strongest candidates to lead the university into the future.
He said he did not want the job. He and his wife, Michelle, are building a home in San Antonio where her parents live.
“I love this school,” Engler said. “Spartan Nation is a proud, proud group of 500,000-strong graduates and they want their institution to be recognized for all the good that it has done and will in the future, not be tarnished by something that was horrific and really due to the actions of one doctor.”