Year in review
A Rose Bowl victory. A visit from the President of the United States. The devastating loss of two MSU students and an 8-year-old girl who touched the hearts of the Spartan community.
As students cram for finals and prepare to depart MSU — either permanently or just for the summer — let’s reflect on the most important stories of the year.
Oswald Scott Wilder
A man accused of committing a string of sexual assaults near MSU’s campus over the summer confessed to all of the incidents this fall, according to East Lansing police.
Oswald Scott Wilder, 26, reportedly told law enforcement he committed three sexual assaults in locations throughout East Lansing between April 20 and May 16, 2013, as well as an additional assault that allegedly took place March 30, 2013, East Lansing police Capt. Murphy previously told the State News.
Wilder currently is awaiting trial.
It began with heated text messages back and forth between Okemos resident Connor McCowan and MSU senior Andrew Singler. But when their argument came to physical blows in Singler’s apartment the night of Feb. 23, 2013, Singler lost his life.
In November, McCowan was sentenced to a minimum of 20 years in prison for the second-degree murder of Singler.
Ayrn Singler-Maurer, Singler’s sister, walked in his place at his graduation this past December.
“I know that Connor won’t ever understand the pain that we continue to live with and will for the rest of our lives, but it at least needed to be spoken,” Singler-Maurer said following the sentencing. “He stole so many moments from our lives and from my brother, and will continue to steal them.”
More than $100,000 in travel and entertainment expenditures by MSU trustees in the past year was defended by the university with claims that officials are following policy.
A review by The State News of a 730-page expense document shows most of the expenses incurred by trustees are allowed under limits set by the MSU Manual of Business Procedures. But university reimbursement for hotel rooms costing more than established rates and spouse travel expenses are violations.
For example, one trip taken by trustee Faylene Owen and her husband cost MSU $26,319, according to the document. Costs of the trip included $1,275-a-night hotel accommodations.
Contextually, an estimated year’s tuition for an in-state MSU student costs $21,764. A three-credit course at MSU costs an in-state student about $1,286.25.
Cedar Village ?‘civil disturbance’
Immediately following a Big Ten Championship win over Ohio State that sent the Spartans to the Rose Bowl, thousands of students and East Lansing residents descended into the streets of the city in celebration, congregating in the Cedar Village neighborhood.
The East Lansing Fire Department responded to 57 fires that night, according to police. DTN Management Co. Vice President Colin Cronin estimated that between $5,000 and $10,000 in damage was caused to Cedar Village.
Despite a history of Cedar Village riots following athletic events, law enforcement officials called the night’s revelries a “civil disturbance.”
“That (riot) is a very inflammatory term,” Police Chief Juli Liebler said to The State News after the Dec. 10 East Lansing City Council meeting. “We’re trying to change the culture at this university and the use of that word is inflammatory.”
Some type of win
MSU ended its longest Rose Bowl drought since its maiden voyage to Pasadena, Calif., in 1954 with a 24-20 victory against Stanford in the 100th game.
Quarterback Connor Cook was named offensive MVP while Kyler Elsworth, whose fourth-down stop sealed the game, won defensive honors. Elsworth played linebacker in place of senior Max Bullough, who was suspended for the season in December for a violation of team rules.
MSU concluded the football season with 13 wins and now has a three-game bowl winning streak – both feats are school records.
“We should be (considered) elite. We’re top five. Anytime you talk about college football, Michigan State should be named,” cornerback Darqueze Dennard said after ending his Spartan career.
Hello, Mr. President
President Obama, after an address to political dignitaries, the media and MSU community members, signed the farm bill into law Feb. 7 on MSU’s campus.
The farm bill, officially known as the Agriculture Act of 2014, will bring sweeping changes to the farming industry, including ending of direct payment subsidies to farmers, which will cut spending by $23.3 billion.
“It’s creating more good jobs, and gives more Americans a shot at opportunity,” Obama said, speaking to the crowd at the Mary Anne McPhail Equine Performance Center.
Gone too soon
Two MSU students tragically lost their lives this year.
Hospitality business sophomore Dominique James Nolff died from a gunshot wound following a shooting that occurred on Cedar Street on Jan. 31.
Police say they have uncovered DNA evidence linking Grand Rapids resident Marquay McCoy, 19, to the crime scene. McCoy is charged with open murder and multiple robbery charges.
Marketing sophomore Dustyn Frolka, an aspiring musician, died after being found partially clothed and in respiratory distress at the side of an entrance ramp on Interstate 69 in Bath Township on Feb. 15.
Three minors are facing felony charges for the alleged robbery and murder of Frolka. Samantha Grigg, 17, Brendan Heim, 16, and Tyrel Bredernitz, 17, were arraigned in 65th District Court in St. Johns, Mich., in February. They were each charged as adults with felony murder, armed robbery and conspiracy to commit armed robbery.
It was a basketball season plagued with illness and injury, with star players Branden Dawson, Adreian Payne and Keith Appling all missing crucial games.
In the NCAA Tournament, the Spartans — seeded fourth but seen as one of the national title favorites by fans, ESPN analysts and even President Obama — who robbed themselves of a trip to the Final Four. MSU tallied 16 turnovers in their 60-54 loss to UConn in the Elite Eight.
But despite a challenging season, MSU did take home the Big Ten Championship title, defeating rival U-M, 69-55.
Pivotal court decisions
For more than 300 same-sex couples, a dream came true when Michigan’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage was struck down in a federal court ruling on March 21.
U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman declared Michigan’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional in his ruling in DeBoer v. Snyder, which challenged the state’s same-sex marriage and adoption laws. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed an appeal, and the state was granted a stay on the decision.
But the marriages are recognized by the federal government.
Another crucial court decision came on April 22, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 6-2 vote to uphold Michigan’s ban on affirmative action in college admissions. The ban was passed in 2006 and supported by 56 percent of Michigan voters.
Many little girls dream of being princesses. St. Johns, Mich., resident and Spartan superfan Lacey Holsworth got to live it.
After a battle with a rare form of cancer, Lacey died at home at 11:13 p.m. on April 8. She was 8 years old.
“Princess Lacey” made national headlines during the past two basketball seasons for her friendship with MSU basketball forward Adreian Payne. She referred to the senior as her “big brother.”
In a candlelight vigil on April 9, hundreds of students came to paint the rock on Farm Lane with messages to Lacey.
“In 30 years, I’ve never been prouder of a group of students than I am now,” Tom Izzo told the crowd.
A memorial service was held at Breslin Center the following week, where the team and loved ones paid tribute to their princess.
Title IX investigation
That’s how long it took MSU to resolve the case of one female student who reported being sexually assaulted.
While she waited, her harasser lived in the same residence hall. They were in the same class. It took more than nine months for MSU to sanction the student found in violation of its own sexual harassment policy, and even after he was punished, a no-contact order didn’t keep him from allegedly intimidating her.
Most of the student’s allegations won’t be investigated by the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, or OCR. Only a small part of her case — one of three in afederal investigation into MSU’s handling of sexual assault and harassment claims — will be examined, because much of the complaint was not filed quickly enough.
MSU’s policy allots itself 120 days for such cases, specifying that 90 are typically needed to complete an investigation, with 30 days to draft a formal report.
MSU’s Title IX Coordinator Paulette Granberry Russell characterized the 120 days as a “goal.”
“There are times when even that may not be met, depending upon the circumstances of each individual case,” she said. The student said her reason for reporting it.
“All I was seeking was to feel safe on this campus,” she said.