The Slatest

Colossally Insensitive Michigan State President John Engler Has Finally Lost His Job

Engler, seen looking downward while wearing a suit.
John Engler. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Michigan State’s board of trustees has asked interim school president John Engler to resign after he again made national news for disparaging the victims of former university doctor and convicted serial sex abuser Larry Nassar, a Detroit Free Press reporter says. A board meeting to discuss Engler’s future has been set for 8 a.m. Thursday. (Update, 3:30 p.m.: Engler is resigning.)

Engler, a former Republican governor, took over Michigan State when Lou Anna Simon, who has since been charged with lying to police about Nassar, resigned in February 2018. (Simon stepped down shortly after the doctor was given an effective sentence of life in prison for crimes that included molesting female Michigan State athletes under his care.) Since then, Engler:


• Wrote in an email which became public in June 2018 that Nassar victim-turned-activist Rachel Denhollander was “likely” being compensated by trial lawyers for having “manipulated” other victims into suing the school. (There is no evidence that this is true. Engler apologized for the speculation.)


• Seemingly violated privacy laws by authorizing the release of a statement detailing the mental-health treatment history of a former student who accused the university of mishandling her accusation that she was raped by three basketball players.

• Referred to the teal shirts that Nassar victims and their supporters have worn as a show of solidarity as “that teal shit” during a meeting with university employees.

• Told the Detroit News in an interview published last Friday that some of the women who Nassar assaulted are “enjoying” the “awards and recognition” they’ve received during their time “in the spotlight.”

After the Denhollander email scandal, two Democratic members of Michigan State’s eight-member board of trustees moved to fire Engler. A group of two Democrats and four Republicans defeated the move, arguing that while his comments were inappropriate it would set the university back to have to begin searching again for a new president. In November’s election, though, two of those Republicans were replaced by Democrats who’d campaigned on promises to have Engler removed, and his most recent comments appear to have been the mind-bogglingly ill-advised straw that broke the camel’s back.