Faculty, College Dems call for vote of no confidence in board
Making good on its promise, the Steering Committee, composed of faculty liaisons to the MSU Board of Trustees, called for a vote of no confidence in the board following the appointment of former Michigan governor John Engler as interim MSU president.
The Committee stood by its statement, issued Tuesday, which was shifted to the present tense and read by Steering Committee President and Faculty Liason Laura McCabe to the board.
MSU College Democrats President Dan Martel also called for a vote of no confidence, disappointed with the appointment.
The liaisons, who were invited to a meeting with the board to discuss an interim president Monday, expressed concerns their input was ignored. Student Liaison Lauren Bernhardt said the liaisons heard the board chose Engler through news reports, not from the board.
"It appears that not only were none of our suggestions heeded by the Board of Trustees, we learned of their apparent decision to select governor Engler through public media," the Steering Committee's statement reads. "They seem to have selected, without appropriate consultation from the MSU Community, an individual with no academic leadership experience as Interim President. We have issues with both the selection itself, and a selection process that used meetings with students, faculty, and Deans to give the appearance of consultation."
Following the board's unanimous vote to appoint Engler, senior Connor Berdy sat on the trustees' table in protest while discussing students' disappointment. Berdy said his actions were not planned, and he decided in the moment to sit on the table.
"Sitting there listening to both the Democrats and the Republicans on that (board) in unison say what they were doing was right ... this is something that we just don't stand for," Berdy said. "We want actual change and accountability at this university. They all care about their elected positions, they all care about their jobs and they all care about their public image. They don't care about people like me and the students that are here."
Engler began a press conference roughly a half hour after the board adjourned. After delivering a statement, the floor was opened to questions.
"We owe it to (the survivors) to fix the problems and to change the culture," Engler said in his statement. "So that a better MSU will be their legacy, and that they know something positive came out of their suffering. I'm only here to help the university community address this crisis and lay a positive foundation for a permanent, new president."
Engler addressed those critical of his appointment.
"Just watch," Engler said. "I've heard people who were unhappy with the current situation is they want action, and I think the board when they talked to me said 'look, we need action' ... and I'm prepared to do that. I'll be reaching out to every member of the university community through whatever mechanisms that exist, and if there aren't appropriate mechanisms, we'll try to create them."
However, students and faculty were brushed aside in favor of questions from the media.
A few questions in, Martel said he was sick and tired of being ignored by the board. He asked Engler if he would commit to having a town hall within the next week with all board members present.
"No, no to that one," Engler said.
Martel read demands made by MSU College Democrats at the Jan. 26 protest, after crowd members expressed anger over Engler attempting to move on.
"I think anything we can do to help the survivors (is good)," Engler replied.
Engler was questioned about his qualifications to be a university president, and whether or not he had the ability to unify the community.
A reporter asked whether the board had consulted survivors in deciding to appoint Engler. Engler's answer to the question did not mention whether survivors were consulted.
Engler was asked about whether his support of Attorney General Bill Schuette in the 2018 Michigan gubernatorial election will be a conflict of interest considering Schuette's ongoing investigation of MSU.
"Yes and no," Engler said. "Bill Schuette is investigating the university." He did not elaborate further.
Engler is also the chair of the U.S. Department of Education's National Assessment Governing Board. The Department of Education is conducting a Title IX investigation into MSU.
"We are working with NAGB as well as the Department’s designated ethics official to review any potential conflicts and determine what, if any, action needs to be taken," Liz Hill, press secretary at the U.S. Department of Education, said in a statement.
Engler exited the boardroom to chants of "shame" from some members of the crowd.