Students in the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee discussed what they look for in the university's next president, what they think the challenges and strengths are on MSU's campus and more at the first input session of the presidential search Monday night.
The input sessions' role in the presidential search
Trustees Dianne Byrum and Melanie Foster, both leading the presidential search, said the input sessions are a way for the presidential search committee to hear the thoughts and ideas of students.
David Porteous, Mark Murray, Gregory Spray, Tomas Hult, Wanda Lipscomb, Mary Finn, Bonnie Knutson and Katherine Rifiotis, all members of the presidential search committee, were also in attendance at the session.
"Our intention is to listen to your input," Byrum said. "We really want to hear what you're thinking of, and that input is going to be used very specifically. The search committee is going to be tasked with writing a position description for the next president."
Byrum said the input sessions with students are going to assist the search committee in writing a job description for the next MSU president and in the evaluation of the applications received.
There will also be an opportunity for students, faculty, staff and other members of the MSU community to fill out input forms on the presidential search website. There, further thoughts, feelings and concerns regarding the presidential search and the listening sessions can be submitted.
The session Monday night had a "safe space" held by the MSU Sexual Assault Crisis Intervention team, where students could go if they felt uncomfortable or triggered during any part of the discussion.
According to Christie Schichtel, volunteer with the Sexual Assault Crisis Intervention team, which is a part of the MSU Sexual Assault Program, these safe spaces will be at each of the input sessions.
Students discuss desired qualities of presidential candidates
Byrum began the first input session by asking what the qualities, characteristics and criteria the students would like in the next president.
Transparency, trustworthiness, collaboration, having a clean background, being approachable, being accessible and being active were all qualities and characteristics mentioned by the student athletes at the session.
"We need a president who is going to be able to talk to us and not send things to our spam," one student said. "We need someone who is not going to talk at us, but to us."
A student on the MSU Track & Field and Cross Country Team said it is important for the next president to have a "clean slate" in light of the university's handling of reports against ex-MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.
"I know you can't always hold someone to what they were accused of," she said. "But if there have been allegations or questions, that is something to consider because allegations usually have a start, as we have gone through."
Strengths and challenges on campus
Byrum also asked students at the session what they consider to be a major challenge facing MSU.
Many of the students expressed that tuition and the cost of education are major challenges on campus.
Students also mentioned that MSU's current reputation and image are challenges.
"When I talk to people at home or wherever and I say I'm an athlete at MSU, the first thing that's brought up is what happened last year," one student said. "Obviously, it will take time for that to be repaired, but I think it really needs to be at the forefront of everything we do."
Students were also asked what they consider to be an important strength of MSU.
One student said a strength MSU has always had is tradition.
"I was in Europe this past summer and I was wearing a Michigan State hat," he said. "No matter where you're at in the world, someone will always say 'go green' and you will respond with 'go white.'"
Next steps in the presidential search process
Byrum and Foster said, as the presidential search process moves forward, the search committee will continue getting ideas from students at the input sessions and will eventually create a job description based off of those ideas.
The search committee will then select candidates, present them and the MSU Board of Trustees will ultimately decide who the permanent university president will be.
Foster said Interim President John Engler will not be a part of the search process and will not be a candidate.
Michael Kaplowitz, faculty athletics representative, said he thinks the student athletes at the first input session came very well prepared with "useful contributions that resonated with their fellow Spartans."
"I'm optimistic that it will help the search committee continue moving in the right direction," Kaplowitz said.
Bailey Higgins, president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, said she thought input session went "really well."
"I think it's amazing that they took time out of their day to come meet with us and hear from the student athletes," she said. "I think it's important to hear from us, but to also hear from many other groups on campus."
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