Donors like Secchia need to be held accountable

By Lanthorn Editorial Board | 1/29/18 12:47am

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The fallout from the Larry Nassar scandal has seen top Michigan State University officials like former President Lou Anna K. Simon and athletic director Mark Hollis resign as more information continues to come out about the university and staff and administrative knowledge.

Following Simon's resignation, notable MSU—and Grand Valley State University—donor Peter Secchia was speaking to WZZM 13 in Grand Rapids about the fallout from the case. The case has been well-reported, as more than 170 brave victim survivors testified in court. Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for sexual abuse charges, on top of the 60 years he was sentenced for child pornography charges.

Despite all of the horror that has been uncovered in this case, Secchia's comments on the situation didn't exactly do much to express his support or sorrow for the victims.  

"We all wonder why the National Gymnastics people aren't being dragged in, the Olympics aren't being dragged in, why some of the parents remained quiet," Secchia told WZZM. "Were they driven to have a gold medal or driven to have a child who is a star? Were they holding back on the information they had because they didn't want to embarrass their daughter? There are so many different currents in this river of distraught. ... It's not a pleasant time, ... but it can only get better." 

In his role as a donor, Secchia is also a public figure. His comments come off as insensitive and ignorant. Obviously, there are many people to blame in the Nassar case, but he shouldn't look to defer the blame. Simon and Hollis stepping down is a good step in beginning the healing process for everyone involved (although Simon's resignation letter didn't exactly voice regret), but Secchia's comments scream a lack of integrity and accountability. 

By shifting the blame onto USA Gymnastics and—even worse—the parents of the victim survivors, one of whom took his own life out of guilt from the situation, Secchia looks inconsiderate and callous. 

Secchia's donations to MSU and GVSU have earned him praise. His name is on Secchia Hall on GVSU's Pew Campus, as well as the MSU Secchia Center in Grand Rapids. He is the former U.S. ambassador to Italy, as well, and his contributions to the institutions and communities shouldn't be ignored. However, he, and every other donor, should still be held accountable for his comments. And universities and their communities shouldn't turn a blind eye to ignorant comments made by donors, either. By doing so, they are essentially saying that they can be bought, and so can their silence. 

The Nassar case is a horrible and traumatic saga that has ruined many lives. Secchia's comments should serve as an example of how not to react to a bad situation. MSU's reaction in general will serve as a case study on public relations failure, but GVSU and other schools should take note that donors aren't untouchable, and they should be criticized if criticism is merited.

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