Friday, December 2, 2022

A recap of MSU's June 22 Board of Trustees meeting

June 22, 2018
Interim President Engler listens at the Action Meeting of Board of Trustees at the Hannah Administration Building on June 22, 2018.
Interim President Engler listens at the Action Meeting of Board of Trustees at the Hannah Administration Building on June 22, 2018. —
Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

The MSU Board of Trustees meeting on Friday was met with more calls for Interim President John Engler's termination, votes on the budget for the upcoming school year, personnel actions, decisions on the $500 million settlement with the survivors of ex-MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar's sexual abuse and more.

Vote to terminate Engler as interim president

At the beginning of the meeting, Trustee Brian Mosallam made a motion to terminate Engler from his position as interim president "for failing to uphold the standards of conduct expected from a leader of this university." 

Mosallam referenced comments made by Engler that were released to the public last week in a report by the Chronicle of Higher Education. Engler, in emails obtained via a public records request, had claimed that survivor Rachael Denhollander would be getting a "kickback" from her attorneys for aiding in the "manipulation" of other survivors against the university. 

Engler released a statement Thursday in which he apologized for this comments.

Mosallam's motion was voted down 6-2. Both Mosallam and Trustee Dianne Byrum voted in support of it, while Trustees Brian Breslin, Joel Ferguson, Dan Kelly, Mitch Lyons, Melanie Foster and George Perles voted against it. 

Several survivors of Nassar's sexual abuse thanked Mosallam and Byrum for speaking out after Engler's comments regarding survivors were released to the public.

Survivors, parents, faculty, others voice concerns during public participation

Survivors, parents, MSU faculty, students and other members of the MSU community stepped up to the podium to voice their concerns with Engler and the board during the meeting.

Each person who spoke was limited to three minutes and signs were not allowed into the meeting.

Survivor Kaylee Lorincz was one of those who spoke to the board. She mentioned the last Board of Trustees meeting in April, where Engler told her several times that her "time was up" while she was speaking.

"He (Engler) is so insensitive to survivors that he used the very words of the movement to attempt to silence me not just once, but many times," Lorincz said to the board. 

Survivor Morgan McCaul, who organized a Solidarity for Survivors event during the meeting with student and faculty group Reclaim MSU, also spoke to the board. 

McCaul brought up an alleged comment made by Engler that was first reported by the Detroit Free Press. It alleged that in a meeting, Engler had told a team organizing an event to "get that teal shit out of here." Teal is the color that represents sexual assault awareness.

McCaul ripped up the apology letter Engler had released on Thursday, which had been placed on all of the chairs in the board meeting.

"Get this teal shit out of here?" McCaul said just before ripping it up. "Get this out of here."

Bryan Tarrant, parent of a survivor, also took the stand to tell the board that Engler is a "monster behind closed doors" and that his apology was not genuine.

"His latest apology, like all of his other statements, simply do not ring true," Tarrant said. "John Engler has proven several times, within statements behind closed doors, in his private emails, that he had no moral compass and no moral character and has no business leading this once great university."

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Personnel actions taken, Robert Young's contract established

Several contracts were renewed at the Board of Trustees meeting, including that of men's basketball head coach Tom Izzo, men's hockey head coach Danton Cole and women's basketball head coach Suzy Merchant.

Robert Young's contract as vice president of legal affairs and general counsel was also approved by the board with a 5-3 vote, which sparked boos from a crowd of primarily survivors, parents and faculty.

Young's contract is effective from June 1, 2018 to May 31, 2021 and he will receive an annual salary of $425,000.

Budget and tuition for the 2018-19 academic year

The board unanimously voted to implement a tuition freeze for in-state freshmen students and a $360 increase per academic year for in-state and out of state sophomores, juniors and seniors for the 2018-19 school year.

There will also be a tuition freeze for the 2019-20 academic year and a block tuition structure for students who take between 12 and 18 credits, according to the budget presentation. 

Engler said that about 17 percent of the budget for the upcoming academic year will go to financial aid. According to the budget presentation, financial aid will increase by 4.5 percent for the 2018-19 school year.

The budget will also account for 13 new Title IX and related positions, 10 new positions in the Counseling and Psychiatric Services, four new MSU police officers, two new employee assistance positions, two new FOIA office positions and two new Office of Enterprise Risk Management, Ethics and Compliance positions.

The budget will also require students to have health insurance beginning on Jan. 1, 2019.

According to the board's budget presentation, coverage will be included as part of a "need-based financial aid."

$500 million settlement with Nassar survivors

The board also voted to approve the $500 million settlement with the survivors of Nassar's sexual abuse, which will allow the final stages to be made.

Trustee Melanie Foster said that no tuition dollars will be used to pay for the settlement. Instead, the university will pay for it through issuing bonds.

Trustees respond to criticism of Engler

As survivors, parents, faculty and other members of the MSU community protested with phone screens that read "Fire Engler," Trustee Mitch Lyons and Trustee Joel Ferguson spoke up about their feelings toward Engler.

"This board, 100 percent of us, were on board with hiring John because because we felt he could put fires out in Lansing and D.C, which were the immediate issues in terms of calming things down so we could move forward in terms of the settlement, everything else," Lyons said. 

He told the audience that the board believed that Engler was the right person to enact change on MSU's campus in light of what has happened and suggested that if the board were to fire him, they would have to find another interim president while the search for a president is still going on.

"Nobody in their right mind is walking into this hot mess right now," he said.

Lyons said that if Engler were to leave, the board should too. The suggestion prompted multiple people to yell "Yes!" in response. 

Trustee Joel Ferguson also spoke at the meeting. He said everyone on the board is sensitive to survivors and that they have a plan to ensure something like Nassar's abuse never happens again at MSU.

"Our best days are ahead of us at Michigan State University,” Ferguson said.

Leslie Miller, mother of survivor Emma Ann Miller, and others in the audience yelled at Ferguson from across the room after he said Engler is a good leader and to "give us a chance."

As the meeting came to an end, they shouted "shame on you, MSU."

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