An ex-Michigan governor has been selected to serve as interim president of Michigan State University, a decision that prompted outrage from students and faculty members.
The university’s board of trustees announced that John Engler, an alumnus, would be temporarily leading the school on Wednesday—a week after the sentencing of disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar for sexual assault.
“I think we start from the standpoint: How do we change things?” Engler said. “That starts today.”
Students and faculty members protested his appointment, arguing the board hadn’t asked for their input before making a decision.
“This was not a democratic process,” said MSU senior Connor Berdy, according to USA Today. “You, as the Board of Trustees, (need to) make better decisions going forward and allow us in on the process.”
The Michigan State Steering Committee sent a letter to the community Tuesday criticizing the board’s pick.
“They seem to have selected, without appropriate consultation from the MSU community, an individual with no academic leadership experience as an interim president,” the letter read.
Engler, 69, was governor from 1991 through 2002. The Republican is stepping in for Lou Anna Simon, the former MSU president who resigned after Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for sexual assault.
Nassar was part of MSU’s faculty and a doctor at USA Gymnastics. Over 150 women testified last week they had been sexually abused by Nassar while he was treating them.
Other victims confronted him Wednesday for his final sentencing hearing. Judge Janice Cunningham said 265 people have accused him of sexual assault.
Rachael Denhollander, the first Nassar victim to go public, said she was disappointed about Engler’s selection, calling him a “deep political insider at MSU.”
“My hope is that despite his close ties, he will act with leadership and integrity,” Denhollander wrote on Facebook. “My hope is that Engler will be the first leader to truly act on what is right.”