As the Associated Students of Michigan State University, or ASMSU, President Lorenzo Santavicca said, “We are in a crisis mode right now at our university."
Following a series of events, including former MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon's resignation, Athletic Director Mark Hollis' retirement, ex-MSU doctor Larry Nassar's sentencing, Attorney General Bill Schuette being called to investigate MSU's handling of the scandal and student outcry, Santavicca said the student body needs to come together.
He called an informal meeting on Thursday, bringing together all members of ASMSU in the wake of Simon's resignation. The meeting's intent was to provide a sense of community for the organization and to discuss how the university could move forward.
“Tonight is when we effectively close the chapter of saying anything about the confidence of this administration, because now we have the opportunity to start with a new leader to say what we want to happen at this institution, to reassure the fact that we want to build confidence again at this university," Santavicca said. "It’s our university, bottom line. I’ve seen a lot of comments, people saying that the university administration will listen to us, not the other way around.”
Residential College in the Arts and Humanities representative Brittany Wise said the issue should be less focused on unity and more on how to move forward.
"I think that we can talk all day until we’re blue in the face on unity and what needs to happen, but if you’re not being specific about it, you’re not really doing anybody any good," Wise said.
Last week, ASMSU unanimously voted on a bill condemning the Board of Trustees and calling for the university's administration to take responsibility for Nassar, not calling for any resignations. Lyman Briggs representative Ben Horne said the conversation should be about what policies change and how to stop the mishandling of sexual assaults from happening, rather than on Simon.
“This wasn’t focused on who do we get rid of, because that doesn’t immediately make the change," Horne said. "President Simon has resigned. That’s not going to fix the problem.”
Opinions about Simon's resignation varied throughout ASMSU. Many representatives saw it as a necessity.
“I’ve been waiting for her to resign for years," Wise said. "I think she was very much out of touch with the students, I think she was out of touch with our needs."
But some felt conflicted.
“I think it is the best move for the university, but we are definitely losing somebody who, in the past, has been a positive influence on this campus," Horne said. "I think that she ended her tenure as a conflicted figure, but moving forward from this, we move forward with a unity that is rarely seen at Michigan State."
College of Music representative Isaiah Hawkins, who helped pen the bill from last week with ASMSU representative of the Alliance for Queer and Ally Students Olivia Brenner, despite creating the bill without any resignations in mind, saw it as the first step towards change.
"There’s a spotlight on Michigan State University, we’re under a microscope because of the actions and inaction by people in our administration and faculty," Hawkins said. "Sexual assault is an issue on college campuses nationwide, so I think we could use this attention to show how handling sexual assault on campus can be done right. If we take this call to action, we can be a role model in that regard when we currently are not.”
Santavicca said he hopes the long-term president, who has yet to be determined, is an external hire. And in response to the selection of Vice President and Secretary of the MSU Board of Trustees Bill Beekman as interim president on Friday, he said he looks forward to working with him.
“It hurts to know that one of my mentors at this university is gone," Santavicca said. "But also didn’t make the right actions happen before it all piled up. Going forward now, our student government has to be the strongest voice on our campus.”
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