At town hall, MSU Trustee Mosallam faces questions from survivors of sexual assault

MSU victims meeting Thursday night

LANSING, MICH. - Kat Ebert was among the hundreds of Michigan State University students, alumni, faculty and supporters who filled the Kellogg Center Thursday night for a town hall hosted by Board of Trustees member Brian Mosallam.

She came looking for answers.

The 20-year-old survivor of abuse at the hands of former MSU doctor Larry Nassar had given her victim-impact statement Wednesday at his Eaton County sentencing hearing.

Foremost among her questions on Thursday night: What’s going to change at MSU?

“It’s hard to go to school here right now,” Ebert said, adding that she feels trapped at a place where administrators aren’t listening to the concerns being brought to them.

Mosallam hugged Ebert after the town hall ended.

Talking with him afterward, Ebert said, she was surprised to hear Mosallam say he had no idea how much sexual assault happens on campus.

Several of the evening’s speakers referenced being sexually assaulted while students. Some detailed their experience reporting the abuse. 

Ebert’s takeaway from her talk with Mosallam was “that the people that aren’t doing their jobs are not as close to the top as we think."

"And that it's truly rotting, this university, from the core.”

Still, she appreciated that Mosallam was there. He was the only trustee seen at the event.

Dozens of people addressed Mosallam during the town hall. Many were critical of Mosallam’s vote to appoint former Michigan Gov. John Engler to interim president.

Engler, a Republican, will take the helm on Monday as trustees conduct a nationwide search for someone to permanently replace Lou Anna Simon, who resigned last week amid widespread criticism of how the university handled reports of abuse by MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.

An Indianapolis Star investigation of USA Gymnastics, begun in 2016, uncovered widespread sexual abuse of athletes by coaches and others and failures to alert authorities. The IndyStar revealed the first allegations of abuse by Nassar, who ultimately pleaded guilty to 10 counts of criminal sexual conduct, though more than 250 women and girls have said he assaulted them. 

Dee Jordan, past president of the Council of Graduate Students, hammered Mosallam over his decision to do so.

“This was an atrocity, and I’ll never look at you the same,” Jordan said, drawing one of several standing ovations during the 3-hour-long event.

Hundreds of would-be attendees faced a line that stretched the length of the Kellogg Center. Additional space was opened up to accommodate the crowd.

“I came here tonight to hear you,” Mosallam said in his closing remarks.  “I came here tonight representing myself, I’m one of eight. I came here tonight because I knew the community was angry.”

Mosallam declined to answer questions about his decision to support Engler as MSU’s interim president prior to the town hall.

Stephanie Nawyn, a professor of sociology and a co-director of the Center for Gender in Global Context who moderated the event, mentioned future events that will allow for more voices to be heard.

She scrapped the initial plans to have small group conversations in favor of allowing individual comments. 

Contact RJ Wolcott at (517) 377-1026 or rwolcott@lsj.com. Follow him on Twitter @wolcottr.

Lansing State Journa


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