Detroit–“Me Too” and “Time’s Up” surely inspired over 200 girls and women gymnasts to testify in public against Dr. Larry Nassar, the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team doctor and Michigan State University (MSU) sports medicine practitioner who sexually abused them for over two decades. Despite at least 14 administrators who were informed of his conduct, MSU did nothing to stop him. The medical profession has yet to “police itself” in his case.
Nationally televised testimony at Nassar’s sentencing hearings in January and February brought tears to viewers and relentless criticism against the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team and the university.
Less publicity has been afforded to the hundreds of MSU students who have marched in bitter cold. The first march was planned for Jan. 26 to call for President Lou Anna Simon to resign. That March was transformed into a rally in support of those Nassar had abused as well as other campus rape survivors after Simon resigned Jan. 24. Students’ demands included ending mistreatment of Black and other minority students, the resignation of members of the State Board of Trustees and immediate, deep-rooted changes in campus culture so that all students can feel safe.
“’For many survivors of Larry Nassar’s abuse, their silence came to an end this week as he was sentenced. And I hope that tonight the silence ends at Michigan State University,’ senior Ewurama Appiagyei-Dankah told the crowd. They had gathered in front of “the rock,” freshly-painted with the names of the 156 sexual assault survivors who testified at Nassar’s sentencing earlier in the week.
“‘We are the ones who determine the culture–it’s not the administration. We are the heart of this institution, and it’s time we act like it,’ she said.
“Nassar was sentenced on Jan. 24, to up to 175 years in prison for molesting patients he’d seen as a sports medicine physician for the university.” (http://www.mlive.com/news/flint/index.ssf/2018/01/times_up_msu_protesters_fill_s.html)
Protests resurged when former Republican Michigan governor John Engler was hastily named interim president on Jan. 31.
Excerpts from an editorial in the State News, East Lansing, Mich., on Feb. 1, 2018, reflect the breadth and depth of student’s resistance:
Keep singing, Spartans. Make them listen
Spartans, everyone’s watching you. This is no longer just about the president or the Board of Trustees.
The nation has seen what you can do: You have organized marches and protests to hold the university accountable, worn teal to support survivors and gathered governing bodies to vote for change.
Most importantly, our university has seen your power.
But we can’t let that power be used only in special circumstances. The only way to see change in leadership is to keep fighting.
For the Spartan community to continue its revolution, we have to remain vigilant in all circumstances.
We have to question every alleged perpetrator, scrutinize every possible enabler and fight every incident of potential abuse.
Modern culture thrives on idolizing figures who are masters of their profession. Because they’re looked up to, they can do no wrong. They’re untouchable.
…Just look at Larry Nassar. He was “the golden standard.” He was revered as a “god.” And it’s his strong reputation that enabled him to continue abusing women and girls for so long.
…Now is the time to force a culture change so someone like Larry Nassar can never thrive here again.
Now is the time to question even our most beloved leaders.
Spartans, this is the beginning of our revolution. Now is the time to make a difference.
Spartans won’t be silenced.
–Susan van Gelder