The judge who sentenced Larry Nassar is set to be interim Michigan state president

EAST LANSING — The judge who told disgraced former doctor Larry Nassar, “I just signed your death warrant,” as she sentenced him to decades in prison, is reportedly considering becoming acting president of Michigan State University and candidate for permanent position.

Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina told the Lansing State Journal on Friday that she was willing to fill the role of interim president. She also hasn’t ruled out the possibility of becoming MSU’s next permanent president.

MSU President Samuel Stanley Jr. announced his resignation Oct. 13, saying he had lost faith in the board. Stanley’s resignation came after trustees called for an investigation into Stanley and other officials’ handling of Title IX reports, as well as the forced resignation of former Broad College of Business dean Sanjay Gupta over additional Title IX issues. Administrators Dianne Byrum and Dan Kelly had asked him to retire early.

Trustees said they were looking to appoint an interim president quickly because Stanley is expected to leave MSU by mid-January after giving the board 90 days notice.

Nassar survivors have reached out in the past to ask her to take a leadership position at the university which has struggled to overcome the nationwide scandal that resulted in the hundreds of women and girls the former American university and gym doctor sexually assaulted under the guise of a doctor. treatment.

“They still haven’t had the answers they need or the investigations they need and I feel like they need a voice,” Aquilina told the State Journal. “And it’s not just about them, it’s about the whole university and making sure it’s safe and the policies and practices are good.”

Byrum, chairman of the board, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Trustees were widely criticized for expelling Stanley, and the University Council, MSU Faculty Senate, and MSU Student Associates all passed votes of no confidence in the council.

Aquilina, 64, said she would be forced to resign as an Ingham County Circuit Court judge if she were to take on the role of acting president. She said that while she was open to the date, she said it was a decision that would be given careful consideration.

Before being elected in 2008 to a six-year term on the Circuit Court, she served as a judge of the 55th District Court for four years, while also serving as a chief justice and sobriety court judge. She was re-elected in 2014 and 2020.

Aquilina has occasionally caused controversy. Her comment on the death warrant and others she directed at Nassar, such as calling him a “monster”, served as the basis for an appeal of his sentence. Michigan’s Supreme Court ruled this summer that the sentence would stand, but called it a “narrow question” and the justices had “concerns” about his conduct during the seven-day sentencing, including statements by the victims of 156 of Nassar’s victims.

Aquilina, a 1979 MSU graduate, penned an opinion column in The Detroit News on Wednesday, writing that the university failed to address the issues that ultimately allowed Nassar to sexually abuse hundreds of women and girls.

“In 2018, after putting a university-employed serial sex offender behind bars for life, I hoped that MSU would get to work and take the necessary steps to protect its students and communities from relationship violence and abuse. sexual misconduct (RVSM),” Aquilina wrote. “But four years and four presidents later, our state’s largest university and one of the world’s most renowned R1 research institutions has not solved the problem.

“Despite the best intentions of the president and board of trustees — people I know care deeply about MSU — the university remains broken because it has failed to address the core problem of this crime — the inability to prioritize student safety on campus with an accountable administrative structure.

Faculty Senate President Karen Kelly-Blake and other leaders declined to comment.

Reclaim MSU, an advocacy group made up of students, faculty, staff and alumni, said administrators must conduct transparent research.

“To restore the trust of the MSU community, MSU must have open and inclusive research that centers the voices and perspectives of faculty, staff, and students,” according to a statement from Reclaim MSU.

Ingham County Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina smiles before leaving her courtroom, Friday, Aug. 3, 2018, after refusing to recuse herself from the Nassar case.  [AP Photo/Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal]

She included recommendations to address the issue at MSU in the op-ed, including immediately appointing a permanent head of the Office of Civil Rights and Education and Title IX Compliance and giving that head the resources and necessary authority.

If named interim president, Aquilina would use her platform to pursue some of these recommendations. She acknowledged that the work would be made more difficult if there continued to be interference with administrators.

“The university will be a model of universities,” she said. “If they want to keep fighting, that’s a problem. I can be the healer, but I can also be the hammer. No one will heal until there’s a proper investigation.

“I think it starts with the acting president.”

This story will be updated.

Contact Mark Johnson at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @ByMarkJohnson.