Statement to survivors - Feb. 15, 2019

Statement of apology from Acting President Satish Udpa to sexual assault survivors

MSU Board of Trustees meeting, Feb. 15, 2019

Good morning, everyone.

This is my first Board of Trustees meeting as acting president.

I would like, from the very outset, to say something that ought to have been said more than a year ago.

On Tuesday, I sent an email message to our students, parents, employees and alumni.

In it, I mentioned a letter I wrote a year ago to my MSU colleagues, when the dimensions of the Larry Nassar case were becoming apparent to all.

In January of 2018, I wrote of the Nassar survivors: “We share their anguish, and our first obligation is to help them recover and become whole.”

I wrote that, “We have a long and difficult road ahead,” and that “we may be tested as more facts emerge.”

And I said that, “We cannot change the past, but we can and will devote time and resources to fostering healing and creating a culture that provides a safe environment for all members of our community.”

That was my feeling then. It is still how I feel today, and I will work to establish the policies and procedures necessary to put us on that road.

Last week, I met with a small group of Nassar survivors, and I’m sure it will not be the last. I listened, and told them I am sorry MSU let them down. 

I know Kaylee Lorincz and Larissa Boyce are here with us today, and I want to say this to each of you now, and in this room.

And I know others can’t be here with us, but I will address them directly at our board meeting in April, if they can attend.

I want you to know that on behalf of this university I love, as acting president and an executive officer, and as a former dean and faculty member, I realize the need to formally apologize and to effectively atone.

To each of you and to the survivor community, I am sorry you were subjected to the pain and humiliation of sexual assault by somebody you should have been able to trust.

We failed to comprehend and acknowledge your injuries at the time.  We were too slow to grasp the scope and enormity of the offense you endured.

And we failed to treat you with the respect and care you deserved even as we sought to make amends. 

So, I’m not going to talk about “putting this behind us.”  Neither the pain of survivors nor the wounds to our collective soul will be healed quickly or easily.

This will be a long journey of healing.  We have made many changes at MSU, and we will make more.

My commitment to each you today is that we will listen more closely, ask more caring questions and act more thoughtfully as all of us work toward a campus culture focused first on safety and respect.

Thank you for coming forward with your stories and experiences.  I ask now that the entire MSU community surround you with support. 

Thank you for sharing your insights and recommendations so that we can all work every day to prevent sexual assault, support survivors and work to ensure their experience is not repeated.

Finally, thank you for your courage.  It has made a difference, and will continue to affect us all as we seek to go forward together.