ASMSU letter to the editor: 'We are listening'
By The Associated Students of Michigan State University
We want to address the concerns many fellow students have expressed about the decision by the Associated Students of Michigan State University, or ASMSU, to work with Interim President John Engler and the Board of Trustees during this difficult time for the campus community.
We want to make clear that the decision to pursue this course of action was difficult, that we understand the legitimate concerns of many students and that we have chosen this path out of a sincere belief that in the current situation it offers the best hope of fulfilling our duty to represent the interests of the undergraduate student body.
There should be no doubt about ASMSU’s goals here: to support the recovery and healing of survivors; to rebuild trust and confidence in our university; to restore moral and ethical leadership; and to repair the trust in process of Title IX reporting, education, and enforcement for the present and future, beyond the Nassar case. In accomplishing those difficult tasks, we seek to ensure the voices of students are heard. At this time, we have assessed that working with current leadership, in spite of deep reservations, is the wisest course if we are to achieve those goals.
First, ASMSU is aware of Interim President Engler’s mishandling of sexual assault issues as governor. We do not condone or endorse his failures in this area, and we recognize that his actions, and inactions, as governor are both inexcusable and precisely the opposite of the model MSU should now follow. We have made clear and we will continue to make clear to Interim President Engler and the entire MSU community that such passivity in the face of sexual assault is unacceptable at MSU.
Second, we are deeply frustrated by the board’s failure to consult with the student body in the hiring of an interim president. This decision put politics ahead of the interests of students and of the larger university community. Despite these serious concerns, ASMSU will seek to advise the interim president and to refrain from calling for the resignations of the Board of Trustees at this time.
We recognize a difficult reality: should the board members step down, under the Constitution of the State of Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder would have the authority to appoint new trustees, rather than the usual democratic process of electing the trustees. We believe that it is unlikely that the governor could encapsulate the diverse interests of the student body.
Moreover, we draw an important distinction between “working with” the interim president and board and “supporting” their leadership. Simply put, at such a critical moment, student voices must be heard. If we are to represent the interests of the undergraduate student body—which is our primary responsibility—we must take every opportunity to participate in campus decision-making. To divorce ourselves from that process, or to continually call for votes of no-confidence unlikely to achieve their aims, would severely diminish our ability to serve the interests of the students we represent.
In light of these facts, we intend to develop a list of specific recommendations by listening to our community through ASMSU representative outreach, feedback in roundtables, town halls and other upcoming events. The goal of these recommendations will be to bring effective and meaningful change to MSU. We will also develop an advocacy plan to ensure students are included at all stages in the search for the permanent MSU president, and for greater student-body involvement in decisions going forward.
We undertake this path under no illusions about the real possibility that Interim President Engler and the Board of Trustees will fail to consider student input or make decisions that are not in the best interests of students and the university. To put it simply: we are watching. We are watching the interim president and the board. We expect them to do better than they have in the past. Should they fail to do so, should they fail to value and act upon input from MSU students, we will re-evaluate the need to hold a vote of no-confidence in administrative leadership within the next two weeks. Interim President Engler and the board must demonstrate, and demonstrate quickly, that they will listen to students and act in the best interests of the university community.
We recognize many students will disagree with this path; we can only say that we see this as the best choice among unappealing options at a difficult time for our university. We not only welcome, but we encourage, our fellow students to provide continual feedback as we seek to represent their interests. The contact information for your ASMSU representatives can be found below, and on our website, asmsu.msu.edu. Students are also encouraged to send feedback to our new email account at firstname.lastname@example.org. Lastly, we are seeking broader student feedback about general campus climate and ways ASMSU can improve its services and advocacy via the ASMSU student survey that has been in the planning process since early this fall.
We hear you. We are listening.
In solidarity, ASMSU
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