Women's rowing meets with Board of Trustees, 'starts' dialogue
Roughly 50 members of the MSU women’s rowing team marched from Jenison Field House to the Hannah Administration Building Monday to hold a meeting with members of the MSU Board of Trustees.
Trustees Dianne Byrum, Brian Mosallam, Melanie Foster and Dan Kelly met with the team to discuss changes to university policy following the ex-MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar cases.
Interim MSU President Bill Beekman, the vice president and secretary of the board, was also in attendance.
Nassar served as the team doctor for women’s rowing from 1998 to 2016, according to a press release from the team.
“We have victims of his abuse on our current team and in every class along the way,” the statement read. “We are questioning Michigan State University’s approach to Nassar; his criminal actions, the women he has abused, and the response of the University and athletic department. To say nothing is to say you agree and we do not agree with how this has been handled.”
The team discussed five expectations it had for the board, all of which were outlined in the statement, ranging from employees under criminal investigation being suspended without contact with students to a zero-tolerance policy for sexual misconduct to establishing a centralized and interdepartmental reporting system for sexual misconduct complaints.
The attending trustees told the team they intended to act as a listening ear. While the trustees asserted they did not have the power to take immediate action on the expectations, the two parties deliberated and discussed ways to best begin bringing about the change needed.
The trustees in attendance echoed a commitment to changing the culture at MSU. When asked what ways the team could help most, several trustees said, “We need your ideas,” encouraging the team to continue to actively participate in discussions.
Senior Nicole Marek acted as the team’s spokesperson. The attending trustees said the team was the first sports team or student group to speak with them in this manner, and Marek said she hopes they will not be the last.
“The dialogue has been started, but there are definitely more steps to be taken to get all the answers that we’re looking for,” Marek said. “We were very thankful that the four members were able to meet with us as well as the acting president, but we’re disappointed that the rest of the members were not able to come with us. We’re happy that we were able to start a dialogue, but know that this conversation will continue for weeks to come.”
Marek said the trustees listened to the team’s suggestions, which she thought was very helpful, but many questions went unanswered, with investigations still pending.
“I think it was a bit frustrating, but I think patience is going to be key here, and we can be patient for the answers,” Marek said.
Though the meeting did not produce any immediate action, it was a step in the right direction, Marek said.
“The five things that we listed, we wanted all of those things accomplished, but by the sounds of it, these policies and these changes aren’t going to be immediate, which is unfortunate and hard for us to hear, but we’re in for the long haul to see these changes to come," Marek said.