Editorial: If MSU wants to invite figures like DeVos, they should not hide from their own actions
Picture this: MSU has invited the secretary of education to the opening of a sparkling new $88 million research center. She’s accepted, and joining her will be the university president and Michigan’s Lt. Governor.
MSU would be screaming from the hills about this, right?
Actually, they haven’t even whispered from a crater.
Last Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos spoke at an opening ceremony for the MSU Grand Rapids Research Center. As someone whose politics are polarizing, being a cabinet member of the Trump administration, she was met with a crowd of protesters.
Despite DeVos speaking at an official university event, MSU never announced her appearance, nor the opening ceremony itself. The GRRC, being an $88 million project, sounds like something MSU should love to brag about. Yet, the opening ceremony isn’t even mentioned on the facility’s front page. The closest you’ll get is an old news link to a $10 million donation by DeVos’ father and mother-in-law from back in 2016.
Nor has MSU mentioned Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, who also spoke at the ceremony. Nor did they mention the invitations they extended to Gov. Rick Snyder and Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters. No details about the ceremony made it to MSUToday or any other official channel. Except for some comments and confirmations to the media, MSU has not spoken a word about hosting the secretary of education at the opening of a flashy new facility.
If faculty did not create a petition to rescind DeVos’ invitation once they became aware of it, which was then shared with The State News by a concerned student worker, there’s a possibility that the public would never have known DeVos was coming until she was there.
At least one MSU official, Communications Director for MSU's College of Human Medicine Geri Kelley, has been forthcoming in terms of why DeVos was invited.
In an email, Kelley said having DeVos at the opening, because of her role in crafting higher education policy, demonstrated the critical role research universities play in finding cures.
Kelley also stated it has been MSU’s practice to include donors and their families in events surrounding “building milestones.”
If Kelley could tell us this, however, why couldn’t the administration tell it to the public?
MSU both announced their decision to invite George Will as a commencement speaker and President Lou Anna K. Simon released a statement defending it after backlash. Appearances by Donald Trump Jr. and Milo Yiannopoulos were properly announced by the student groups that invited them.
This sudden secrecy in the face of controversy should not become a new paradigm for MSU. If the university wishes to invite speakers some might find controversial, they should not hide the decision and pretend it never happened.
Though it is our job to break news and keep the students informed, MSU should have told you about DeVos before we did.
The State News Editorial Board is made up of the Editor-in-Chief Rachel Fradette, Managing Editor McKenna Ross, Campus Editor Brigid Kennedy, City Editor Riley Murdock, Features Editor Sasha Zidar, Sports Editor Sam Metry, Copy Chief Blair Baeten, Staff Representative Madison O'Connor and Diversity Representative Souichi Terada.
Features Editor Sasha Zidar, Staff Representative Madison O'Connor and Diversity Representative Souichi Terada did not sit in on this editorial.