Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Editorial: Trustees, you're done

Bernie Trautmann of West Bloomfield protests after the MSU Board of Trustees public meeting discussing MSU's presidential transition on Jan. 26, 2018 outside of the Hannah Administration Building. Trautmann said he graduated from MSU in 1989 and he has a son who is a current MSU student. His high school senior daughter is planning to attend MSU in the fall. "I'm here to protect my children from the incompetence of the trustees," Trautmann said. (Nic Antaya | The State News)
Bernie Trautmann of West Bloomfield protests after the MSU Board of Trustees public meeting discussing MSU's presidential transition on Jan. 26, 2018 outside of the Hannah Administration Building. Trautmann said he graduated from MSU in 1989 and he has a son who is a current MSU student. His high school senior daughter is planning to attend MSU in the fall. "I'm here to protect my children from the incompetence of the trustees," Trautmann said. (Nic Antaya | The State News) —

Nothing has changed since Lou Anna K. Simon resigned from her position as MSU president nearly four months ago.

Despite the pleas from survivors, students and community members, MSU’s leadership has consistently resisted change.

And the MSU community is still in a state of limbo, half in the shadow of a severe sexual assault and sexual abuse culture crisis and half in a desire to return to a version of MSU that doesn’t exist anymore.

Trustees George Perles, Dan Kelly, Melanie Foster, Dianne Byrum, Joel Ferguson, Mitch Lyons, Brian Breslin and Brian Mosallam, you’re done.

The State News Editorial Board — among several other voices echoing in your ears — is calling for every single one of you to resign, effective immediately.

Atmosphere and attitude reflect leadership. None of you know where to take this university or how to properly use your authority and power as trustees. It’s arrogant of you to think you can.

For a group who has heard so much from protesters and survivors, the basics of sexual assault cases and empathizing with survivors are lost on you. Look no further than the whistleblowing cases in recent memory and the fierce protection and loyalty to the MSU brand.

You hold on to a supposed former glory, even though the reality is the “old MSU” was severely flawed.

The greatest example of how your leadership is lacking is right outside your window: the students you are tasked with protecting don’t trust you. And because you refuse to hear them, every week they stand outside the Hannah Administration Building with signs and filter into your boardroom with calls for you to resign. 

Any trust you previously had with the students of MSU has been annihilated, and the university can’t rebuild what’s been lost. We need a clean slate. 

The idea of having you choose our next president after you chose John Engler as interim president is simply terrifying. You all represent what needs to be left behind in this troubling MSU era — and you haven’t realized that.

Engler, you have your own set of problems. You have antagonized survivors and tend to escalate situations rather than resolve them.

The only reason we’re not calling for your job is because the trustees are the ones who hold the strings. You have an expiration date, and while we don’t agree with your brash leadership style, we know it won’t last much longer.

We are at the point where it’s time you all step down and let people who know how to be leaders have the chance to do so.

You can’t bury the bad news in ribbon-cuttings, new grants or by pretending like it’s everyone else who chooses to live in it, not you. The university is overrun with problems from the ground up, and no amount of "positive" news will bury them. 

If that’s the strategy, then you’re more out of touch than we thought. 

It takes courage to stand before all of you and say what you feel is wrong with this university. We watched that at the most recent Board of Trustees meeting — a meeting that really belonged to the people. 

It doesn’t take an ounce of strength to shut everyone out and continue to ignore what’s happening the way you have for months.

You will leave. You will move on. The only question still on the table is: Where do we go from here?

MSU will need people to lead the way. And especially, lead the movement. 

In order for our university to be reinvented, we need to clean house. Then, we will need new leaders. We will need people to run for trustee positions, people who will acknowledge MSU’s wrongdoings and the changes that are happening every single day. We will need leaders who care, who will make changes based on what the community wants, and needs, to see.

Students want a place on the board. While a specific position for students cannot be created until the Michigan Constitution is amended, students can still run for a seat on the board, and they should.

But Trustees, you need to resign first. The longer you keep up this fight, the more you hold back MSU from what it needs to become. So grow up, and get out.

The State News Editorial Board is made up of the Editor-in-Chief Rachel Fradette, Managing Editor McKenna Ross, Campus Editor Madison O’Connor, City Editor Souichi Terada, Features Editor Sasha Zidar, Sports Editor Jonathan LeBlanc, Inclusion Representative Maxwell Evans, Staff Representative Marie Weidmayer and Copy Chief Casey Holland.

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