Board of Trustees candidates discuss Engler, university issues
At an MSU Board of Trustees candidate forum hosted by the Associated Students of Michigan State University, or ASMSU, on Oct. 2, candidates discussed a range of issues involving the current campus culture in light of the university’s handling of reports against ex-MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse.
Four candidates have been nominated to run for two open spots on the board in the Nov. 6 general election.
Who is running for the Board of Trustees?
The Democratic candidates are Kelly Tebay and Brianna Scott. Tebay has two degrees from MSU and is a sexual assault survivor, and Scott is an attorney and former prosecutor who got her undergraduate degree from MSU.
“I’m running because I felt that we needed a voice on the board that’s not far removed from their time here at Michigan State and really understands the current culture,” Tebay said.
The Republican candidates are Dave Dutch and Mike Miller. Dave Dutch is a businessman who earned an MBA from MSU, and Miller is a businessman whose daughter was treated by Nassar while she was a competitive gymnast at the university.
“I’ve seen difficulties at Michigan State, but I’ve never seen anything as bad as it is right now,” Miller said.
Here are some of the topics that were addressed at the forum.
Should interim President John Engler step down?
“I don’t think that (former) Governor Engler should have been hired as the interim President of Michigan State in the first place,” Tebay said.
But like the other three candidates, Tebay said that removing him from the position could negatively affect the university.
“I am not happy with former Governor Engler’s comments about our survivors,” Miller said. “He should be penalized for that somehow. But I’m not sure it’s the best thing for our university to go out today and hire another interim president when Governor Engler has no intention of staying and we have no intention of keeping him.”
Miller, Scott and Dutch said at this point, the university should be focusing on finding a new president instead.
Should the university ban hate speech?
Scott said that the university should be able to regulate speakers that come to campus with hate speech, especially if the university wants to create an inclusive environment for its diverse community. Tebay and Miller agreed.
“I support everyone’s right to speak their mind, but I don’t support their right to disrupt the university, to cause chaos or to create a situation that might endanger the safety of our students,” Miller said.
Although all candidates showed support for the First Amendment, Dutch said his support was a reason speakers coming to campus should not be regulated.
“There’s always going to be speakers who offend people,” Dutch said. “If it’s a safety issue, I get it, but short of that, I do not believe that we should be stopping people from coming, no matter how reprehensible they are.”
How will they ensure MSU’s administration is transparent?
All candidates agreed that there has been an issue with transparency at the board level. Scott said trustees should have open office hours so that students and faculty can be comfortable discussing their questions and concerns with the board.
Tebay said she wants to look into student representation on the Board of Trustees. All candidates emphasized the importance of keeping most meetings open to the public.
“We need to change the culture on the board to a transparent culture, Miller said. “We need to open up some of these meetings.”
What can MSU do to address on-campus sexual assault?
Scott said a committee consisting of state police, public defenders and other stakeholders should be formed to handle criminal sexual misconduct on campus.
“Having all of those cases coming to this particular committee, where you have people from different professional backgrounds talking about it, will make sure that these things don’t fall through the cracks,” Scott said.
Dutch said the best way to deal with sexual assault is to report it to the police.
“You don’t go to a coach, administrator or teacher. You call law enforcement. They are the ones who are prepared to deal with this,” Dutch said.
Tebay said that when it comes to reporting sexual assault, to report or not to report depends on the victim’s own terms and own comfort level. She added that the university should focus on preventive measures.
Should fraternities be held responsible for their role in fostering a culture of sexual assault?
Miller took a stance against fraternities.
“I haven’t seen a benefit from Greek Life that outweighs the costs,” Miller said. “The abuses of the Greek Life that seem to be causing problems, in my view, we could shut them all down and it wouldn’t make a difference to me.”
Scott, who was a member of Delta Sigma Theta during her time at Michigan State, disagreed.
“I never would have made it without my sorority sisters,” Scott said. “I do not think that we should be policing Greek organizations any different than we would police any other organizations. I think they all need to be educated, but I don’t think that we need to make separate rules for them.”