Letters to the editor: Community comments on Trustees and Engler
Editor's note: This article features letters sent to the Editor-in-chief about the Interim President John Engler and the Board of Trustees. Minor edits have occurred for spelling, grammar or brevity.
As a parent of a current MSU student, I write this letter in the hope that it will reach members of the MSU faculty in time to encourage them to place a vote of no confidence in the trustees of MSU as regards their selection of John Engler as interim president of the university. My reasons for reaching this conclusion are three-fold.
First, the choice of Mr. Engler to serve in this position demonstrates an utter tone deafness to the nature of the current situation because of his past history as a political partisan who works to accomplish his goals by dividing, not uniting, the community he has been selected to lead. If ever there were a time when such a leadership style should come back to haunt a job candidate, this is it. In fact, with the MSU community sorely in need of a uniting force, it should be clear that Mr. Engler is exactly the wrong man for the job.
My second reason for opposing this appointment speaks in more specific terms to the objections raised in the first: in his previous terms as governor, Mr. Engler has proven himself to be no friend to public education nor especially to those who chose to engage in the noble task of educating those young people who attend public K-12 schools. He has indicated his distaste and enmity for educators in a wide variety of ways from his support for charter schools that undermine their work to making it clear that he despises the unions that represent them, which have developed a sort of bete noire status in the twisted worldview of a man who sees the dreams and aspirations of the common man as inimical to his own. Clearly such an individual is not the best choice to lead a group of public servants out of the worst crisis this institution has faced in its long and storied history.
Finally, it is the judgement of the MSU trustees that is on trial here: if this is the best they could do, to appoint a political hack of the worst order after a hastily convened meeting of the minds with little transparency and even less judicious consideration, then obviously they don’t deserve their jobs. The MSU faculty can take a giant step toward making this a reality by voting no confidence in the trustees after their shameful and frankly, idiotic, selection of John Engler to lead the university in its time of trial.
In conclusion, demonstrators against the Vietnam War favored a chant that haunts us even today: “The Whole World Is Watching.” Now, in a moment of similar moral gravity, the same thing may be repeated. What will be the response of the MSU faculty and its community as a waiting world looks on? This parent of an MSU student, for one, hopes that they will take the first steps toward healing that this campus so desperately needs.
College of Arts and Letters, Class of 2001
Candidate for MSU Board of Trustees
Interim President John Engler has begun making moves that demonstrate institutional dedication to justice for the survivors of Larry Nassar and the university’s response to his crimes.
We must remember that true justice is not a product; it is a process to be maintained by future generations of Spartans and administrators. I believe there is a sincere motivation to foster a safe and just campus; there are dozens of programs and hundreds of faculty, staff and students dedicated to this cause.
But there has not been a parallel effort from the board of trustees, and it is hampering the reconciliation process. As interim president, Engler will remove William Strampel for refusing to cooperate with directives to turn over documents related to the Nassar investigation, but the most important part of Engler’s title is “interim,” and any progress he makes will be short-lived without primary leadership from the board.
As a demonstration of leadership, I propose a permanent Trustee Justice Committee. There are currently three trustee committees and one subcommittee; all but one deal with financial issues, including a committee that deals solely with the compensation of the president. These committees do important work but support the claim of the public and survivors that the board focuses on raising money to the detriment of the creation of a safe campus.
Therefore, the role of the Trustee Justice Committee will be to demonstrate institutional prioritization of our response to reported cases of sexual assault, abuse and coercion; and coordinate campus-wide efforts in the prevention thereof.
The responsibilities of the board shall include monitoring proper and complete investigation of all reports of sexual violence on campus while ensuring victim security and privacy; the commission of internal audits of campus-wide compliance to university, state and federal regulations regarding investigation of sexual assault; the solicitation of guidance from faculty and student groups regarding university response to reports of sexual violence; and the creation and amendment of university policies and ordinances with the consultation of the student government, faculty and outside experts.
The committee should be comprised of two trustees, student and faculty representatives and one independent victim advocacy group from outside the university. This last member is most important as it demonstrates the commitment to openness and effectiveness desired by the public and Spartan community.
Justice is not self-sustaining, nor is it self-guiding. Without direct involvement from the board in the form of the Trustee Justice Committee, our early momentum may become diffuse and ineffective. This is change the board can make immediately; if they can demonstrate a collective dedication independent from the work of the president, the Spartan community will know our school is dedicated to past, present and future justice.
The Executive Board of The Roosevelt Institute at MSU
We at the MSU chapter of the Roosevelt Institute, a progressive policy organization, reject the actions taken by the Board of Trustees and the statements made by the Associated Students of Michigan State University, or ASMSU. The Board of Trustees has not been transparent in their approach to the crisis occurring on MSU’s campus, nor have they been responsive to students’ requests for increased transparency. Despite this, ASMSU has thrown its support behind the Board.
For the last few weeks on campus, students have gotten a close-up view of what it looks like when an administration fails. The Steering Committee brought student and faculty concerns to the Board of Trustees, which were ignored with the board’s hasty selection of John Engler as interim president. That decision is representative of the administration’s unwillingness to take student and faculty voices into account.
Through their support of the board, ASMSU has continued the cycle of ignoring student concerns in favor of the convenient answer. Students on campus are clearly dissatisfied by this state of affairs, and their activism represents clear policy goals. These policy goals cannot be achieved by the current administration.
Without the resignation of the current board, the needs and perspectives of the faculty and student body cannot be properly represented by campus administration. ASMSU’s decision to support Engler and the board has further undermined our trust in the university and silenced the voice of the MSU community.
Over the past two decades, MSU’s administration not only didn’t hear student voices, but instead actively ignored them. We are well past the listening phase.
Veterinary Medicine, class of 1970
After watching the trustees on television, I was totally embarrassed having graduated from MSU. Only few of the trustees get it, but not all. They all have to go.