MSU trustee declares Engler ‘reign of terror’ over, board hires Udpa

By: - January 17, 2019 2:56 pm

New MSU interim President Satish Udpa | Michael Gerstein

After interim Michigan State University President John Engler said on Wednesday he would step down effective Jan. 23, the MSU Board of Trustees met on Thursday morning and accepted his resignation immediately.

The board also had a replacement ready to go — high-level MSU administer Satish Udpa. Members named him acting president on the spot.

The board was scheduled to meet before Engler sent his resignation letter on Wednesday to MSU board President Dianne Byrum. On Thursday, the board unanimously approved Engler’s ouster.

The board last year installed Engler, a GOP former three-term governor, to bring stability after then-President Lou Anna Simon resigned over the university’s handling of the Dr. Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal.

However, Engler repeatedly caused a number of firestorms over his dealings with sexual abuse survivors. Most recently, Engler made comments to the Detroit News editorial board that some Nassar survivors were “enjoying” the spotlight and “the awards and recognition.”

New MSU interim President Satish Udpa talks to reporters as MSU Board of Trustees President Dianne Byrum looks on, Jan. 17, 2019 | Michael Gerstein

That was the last straw for board members. As it became clear on Wednesday that the board had the votes to fire Engler, he issued an 11-page resignation letter blaming Democratic trustees, as the Advance reported. He listed his many accomplishments as interim president and did not mention his recent comments about Nassar survivors.

Board Vice Chair Dan Kelly, a Republican, on Thursday defended the decision to speed up Engler’s resignation.

“It’s not a partisan decision,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a Democrat or Republican decision to condemn comments that are not consistent with the values or what we hope to be the values of the university.”

Other trustees slammed Engler at the meeting for comments that offended sexual assault survivors and others. Multiple trustees mentioned the possibility for “healing” now that Engler as gone.

“Today the healing can truly begin. John Engler’s reign of terror is finally over,” said Trustee Brian Mosallam, a Democrat.

Byrum said the move marked “the beginning of a better relationship both among board members and the community of MSU.”

The accelerated resignation comes after several survivors, including new Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, have called for Engler to step down since last year.

Engler’s resignation on Wednesday was met with widespread relief from Democratic officials, including U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint), state Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-East Lansing) and state Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak).

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Michael Gerstein
Michael Gerstein

Michael Gerstein is a former Advance reporter covering the Governor's office, criminal justice and the environment.