MSU: the “thing” that needs to be addressed

I have no idea what is going on in those board rooms at Michigan State University but spending 10 minutes talking about the president of the university during a five-hour meeting is no way to handle the “thing” that needs to be addressed.

The sexual abuse of more than 140 women over a 20-year period with at least 14 representatives ignoring complaints – as it has been reported – from at least eight athletes is the “thing” that needs to be discussed not deflected.

There is nothing else going on at MSU that anyone should care about at this point other than “the Nassar thing”.

As they needed to, the board of trustees have since apologized for the term “thing” but that still does not excuse it or prove they have a cohesive and thoughtful communication strategy to handle this national crisis.

I have been in many war rooms discussing a crisis with lawyers sitting across the table. I realize the university has its eyes set on looming lawsuits but that lack of a compassionate response from MSU leadership, including the board of trustees, is alarming and will certainly send MSU spiraling into a bigger crisis.

President Lou Anna Simon not only should have been at the first-day of victim impact statements, but needed to let the victims know she was there in support of them. Heinous things happened at her university and there are many reports that the university knew of the sexual abuse for many years and did nothing. I guess they were too busy raising money for the Breslin Center to follow up with the accusations.

That is the kind of commentary you are going to get back when leaders make such out-of-touch comments about one of the worst sexual abuse scandals in U.S. history.

What happens when you make such grievous comments is that people are going to surmise that you just don’t care.

Not only are leaders, including the longtime trustee Joel Ferguson, failing to express any concern for these women, they are minimizing evil.  They are responding to this devastating crisis with blatant disregard.

Where are the communications experts who are supposed to advise MSU on how to handle this crisis? Clearly not in the room.

The thing you should be addressing are court testimonies from student athletes who have suffered physically and emotionally at the hands of a sick man; one as young as 6 years old.

The thing that needs to be discussed without laughter is the NCAA investigating of MSU. The thing that people want to hear you say is that you are cooperating with such investigation of MSU and support any kind of investigating of USA Gymnastics.

Clearly there is no communication strategy going on at MSU. There are no consultants advising them on who should talk, what to say, when to say it and to whom.

It doesn’t even seem right to talk about public relations as it relates to such a horrific situation. I know.  With every testimony I have heard and read about, I am pained.   The reality is these people just don’t seem to get it. Someone with some kind of understanding of communications needs to tell them. It is obvious just watching MSU handle this “Nassar thing” that no one with any kind of expertise, empathy or strategy is advising them.

Many people seem to get this, except MSU. “If they weren’t competent enough to address this in the beginning, then they probably weren’t wise enough to come up with a thoughtful, strategic communications plan now,” noted Dan West, president of the Livonia Chamber on Facebook.

Roop Raj from Fox 2 News appropriately tweeted, “The sexual abuse of 140 plus women over 20 years is not just a “thing.” It is a sick legacy of disturbing string of sexual assaults permitted to happen at the hands of a university staffer. I assure you the victims don’t refer to the trial of this monster as ‘this Nassar thing,’ as chair of the MSU Board Trustee said on the radio.”

Exactly Roop. The “thing” that needs to be addressed and clearly isn’t will be the very thing that will end up being the MSU legacy.

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