Saturday, September 26, 2020

Amid protests, trustees discuss resolutions, receive backlash

April 13, 2018
Survivor Amanda Thomashow covers her mouth in cloth that reads "silenced" during the Board of Trustees meeting on April 13, 2018 at Hannah Administration Building. (C.J. Weiss | The State News)
Survivor Amanda Thomashow covers her mouth in cloth that reads "silenced" during the Board of Trustees meeting on April 13, 2018 at Hannah Administration Building. (C.J. Weiss | The State News) —

The last Board of Trustees meeting of the year was met with protests from Reclaim MSU, survivors of ex-MSU doctor Larry Nassar's sexual abuse and survivors' parents.

The meeting included changes regarding safety and prevention on campus, proposals that were voted on, Interim President John Engler's interactions with protesters in the board room and more. 

Protecting minors in university youth programs

Engler said since the Nassar cases and the sexual misconduct accusations against former College of Osteopathic Medicine Dean William Strampel have been brought to attention, changes have been made to patient care, safety and sexual assault prevention on campus. 

David Chupak, MSU's youth programs director, put together a review titled "Protecting Minors in University Youth Programs" and recommended changes that have been adopted by MSU administration.

"We are well aware that on this campus, through the course of a year, we have many youth that come and visit, and there has been a comprehensive evaluation of those programs and how the university oversees the programs and assures that we're protecting young people who visit our campus," Engler said.  

Many victims of Nassar's were assaulted at MSU as minors while involved with youth programs. 

Chupak said they are working on creating more safety training programs, getting involved with the MSU Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives and limiting contact between adults and minors. He also plans on coordinating with other Big Ten schools on these recommended changes.  

"Since I've started in my role, program directors have reached out to me about consultations for their programs and I'm pleased to report that they're eager to comply with university policies and committed to providing safe experiences for minors who are participating in their programs," Chupak said. 

Changes in MSU health colleges, including establishing "consent to treat" form

Michael Herbert, the CEO of MSU HealthTeam, gave a presentation on the changes that have been made to ensure patient safety in the MSU health colleges, including the College of Osteopathic Medicine, where Nassar and Strampel worked. 

“It is part of what we think is a very comprehensive response to taking action and fostering a safe campus,” Engler said about the actions done by the MSU HealthTeam so far.

Some of the changes mentioned were the institution of a “consent to treat” form, letting patients know what their rights are and TV monitors in clinics. 

Herbert also said the team met with MSU Police to “ensure a safer environment for patients and staff," is working on the coordination of complaints and is meeting with the Office of Institutional Equity, or OIE.

"What we're trying to do is, when an issue comes up, that there's quick communication amongst the affected parties so we can appropriately deal with the issue," Herbert said. 

Announcement of CAPS director

Engler announced Mark Patishnock will be the director of Counseling and Psychiatric Services at MSU. There were three candidates for this position, which was vacant for more than a year.

While discussing the Counseling Center, one student protester in the crowd, who said they have been waiting to see a counselor, shouted, "they're understaffed."  

In response, Engler said counselor positions have opened up for those who are qualified.  

Engler addresses lawsuits

"I think the ability of Michigan State to respond is dramatically different and better than it was a year ago," Engler said. In response, the crowd booed. 

He mentioned more investigators were hired within MSU's Title IX office and how the office has been restructured. He also mentioned the media coverage of the latest lawsuit that alleges MSU discouraged a student from reporting rape, and said it was unfair to MSU faculty. 

"It really represented an attack on the professionals in the counseling services, that they somehow had not done their job," Engler said. "When an individual came forward and did talk to someone in a timely fashion, that the response from the staff was highly professional and highly appropriate."

Engler also brought up the pending litigation against the university.

"On the 25 and the 26 of April, in New York City, the mediation process begins to resolve over 260 lawsuits that are brought by many of the individuals that are here with us today," Engler said. "We talked earlier about the changes being made on campus, but the lawsuits deal with the money damages that will eventually be paid to survivors ... Until that's done, we face a very difficult challenge."

2018-19 room and board rates approved

The trustees approved the finance committee's resolution to increase room and board rates by 2.97 percent.

A residence hall double-room for an undergraduate student will cost $122 more, and a silver meal plan will cost $174 more. Rates will not increase for university apartments.

IM Sports-East renovation update

The Trustee Finance Committee also passed a resolution for renovations to be made to IM Sports-East as a part of the “Healthy Campus Initiative."

IM Sports-East's gym and track will get a $2.15 million makeover, including opening the track to the gym below as part of the $35 million to improve MSU's fitness facilities and programs.

People in the crowd shouted during the discussion around this agenda item. They said this money should go toward mental health as a part of the "Healthy Campus Initiative."

"Now the proposed renovation of IM East is just another sign of the failed values of this board," Dan Martel, a member of Reclaim MSU, said during his public comment before Engler. "We cannot and should not, spend millions of dollars renovating IM East. That money should go towards expanding mental health services on campus."

Trustees receive backlash for comments

Trustee and Chair of the Board Brian Breslin congratulated Engler on his job as interim president and thanked him for accepting a position he did not seek. In response, members of the public booed. 

Breslin also thanked the members in the crowd for raising their voices on important issues.  

“You can’t raise your voice if you’re not in the room,” a student protester said in response, referring to the number of people, including the parents of survivors, who were unable to enter the board room because of capacity.

Trustee Joel Ferguson also commented. 

“I’m not bashful saying this, John Engler is the right person for this time,” Ferguson said. 

Trustee Brian Mosallam discussed the audit and risk committee, while Trustee Dianne Byrum addressed the survivors and parents of survivors in the crowd. She apologized to them on behalf of the university. 

Throughout the trustees' comments, members of the public shouted and, because signs were not allowed in the board room, protested by using their phones.

Some protesters shouted "Shame on you," to the trustees. Some shouted, "You all need to resign." 

Stay with The State News for continued coverage on the meeting.

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