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Michigan State President Resigning in Wake of Larry Nassar Scandal Could Still Get Millions of Dollars in Perks

Lou Ann Simon will get $750,000 for her first year on research leave and 75 percent of her salary in subsequent years.

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Lou Anna Simon
BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS/Newscom

Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon resigned last night after the dramatic sentencing of convicted sexual abuser Larry Nassar, who was formerly a doctor at MSU. But thanks to her generous employment contract she could still draw a six-figure presidential salary from the university for years.

Simon disputed that she had any prior knowledge of Nassar's criminal conduct—his molestation of hundreds of young women—or worked to cover it up in any way.

"As tragedies are politicized, blame is inevitable," she said in statement. "As president, it is only natural that I am the focus of this anger."

But Simon might not be leaving MSU. Her contract stipulates that she can return to the faculty and immediately receive 12 months of "research leave" while still drawing her presidential salary of $750,000. And that's not all. According to The Detroit Free Press:

She then gets her current salary for the next year and 75% of her salary for the next two years. She also gets office space and secretarial support. She also gets the title of "president emeritus." …

"In the 200+ presidential contracts we've reviewed, this is the only contract that provides for the president to receive 100% of their last presidential base salary for the first year that they return to the faculty," James Finkelstein, a professor emeritus at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University and the leading researcher of presidential pay, told the Free Press in an email.

He reviewed Simon's contract at the Free Press's request.

"This means that Dr. Simon will be paid at least $750,000 for her first year returning to the faculty from her research leave. After that, she will be paid 75% of that base salary, or at least $562,500 per year. Dr. Simon's field is higher education. She received her PhD in education from MSU in 1974.

"So based on this contract, it would appear that Dr. Simon will be paid more than twice the amount of the most highly paid faculty member in the College of Education. In addition, she will be paid more than the most highly paid faculty member in the entire university, C. Konrad Gelbke who makes $433,441. He is one of the world's leading physicists."

Perhaps Simon was a skilled and competent administrator, despite the serious crimes committed by Nassar during her tenure as MSU's president. But that's a whole lot of money for a public, taxpayer-funded university to spend on a single employee—especially one who won't actually be teaching anytime soon.

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  1. a three-figure presidential salary from the university for years.

    I’ll allow it.

    1. I can only assume $999.99 everyday for the next 50 years.

  2. If only we had more women running our nation’s institutions…

    1. That’s a woman?

  3. Now that’s taking accountability!

    Once gain, I regret my life choices.

  4. It’s not that unusual an arrangement. ex-Presidents may not get 100% of their salary the first year back, but 75-90% is absolutely typical. Usually the trustees are counting on their retiring or getting another job rather than going back to a faculty position.

  5. “It’s for the Children.”

  6. Perhaps Simon was a skilled and competent administrator…

    Certainly a good negotiator.

  7. Perhaps she’s entitled to these benefits, but there is a matter of honor. The investigation will hopefully reveal who knew what and when. When those acts happen on your watch, maybe it’s time to retire and donate the salary to a women’s shelter.

  8. And she is a tenured professor. No rational high level academic administrator would accept a position at a university without accompanying tenure, and she’s been on the faculty there for at least thirty years, paying into the retirement system (as do pretty much all university faculty). And usually Presidents negotiate stepping down packages when they are hired. Since she resigned, rather than being fired, there’s pretty much nothing to look at here. Really.

    It’s sad, because she really was a very good administrator who took MSU from a backwater to a powerhouse, not only in football, but in academic status. Really not sure how culpable she is, but in the end she had to go because she couldn’t get beyond this to keep doing her job effectively regardless of her level of responsibility.

  9. “her generous employment contract”

    If only there was a political party that believed in contracts and not feelings.

  10. There’s a bunch of 18 year olds out there that have been told during all their years at school that they don’t have a chance if they don’t go to college that will be happy to cover her pay.

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