Board of Trustee candidates discuss student inclusion, presidential search
A forum was held at the University Council meeting on Tuesday, where the MSU Board of Trustees candidates answered questions asked by student representatives and faculty members.
Two seats on the Board of Trustees are open and will be filled after the upcoming election on Nov. 6.
The terms of Trustees Mitch Lyons and Brian Breslin are up, and they are not running for re-election. Four candidates have been nominated to run for these open spots — Democrats Brianna Scott and Kelly Tebay and Republicans Dave Dutch and Mike Miller.
Scott is an attorney and former prosecutor who got her undergraduate degree from MSU. Tebay has two degrees from MSU and is a survivor of sexual assault.
Dutch is a businessman and veteran who earned an MBA from MSU, and Miller is a businessman and alumnus whose daughter was treated by ex-MSU doctor Larry Nassar while she was a competitive gymnast at the university.
Questions at the forum included what the candidates' stances on calls for resignations are, student and faculty involvement on an administrative level, the presidential search process and more.
Resigning in the event of a vote of no confidence
In response to the board’s appointment of former Governor John Engler as interim president, which faculty and student liaisons objected to, MSU's Faculty Senate passed a vote of no confidence in the Board of Trustees. Despite the calls for their resignations, all of the trustees kept their positions.
At the forum, Vice Chair of the Steering Committee Deborah Moriarty asked every candidate what their response would be if they were on the board at the time of the vote of no confidence, or if members of the MSU community call for their resignations in the future.
"I am surprised that they did not take action," Dutch said. "I think I would have resigned."
Scott and Tebay agreed.
"If those of you that are the key stakeholders here on campus feel as though you have no confidence in me, I think it's hard to work effectively with that type of feedback," Scott said. "I would say that I would resign. I would be sad to do that, I would hope that I could convince people that I am capable of making the differences and changes that you would be wanting to happen, but I do feel your voice should be heard."
Miller also said he would resign, but said he doesn't know if the current trustees should have resigned in response to the calls made last semester.
"If they all resigned, would you be happy with the new board appointed by Governor Snyder?" Miller said. "If it were me, and I had a complete vote of no confidence in the people that I worked with this closely, I'd get out of the way."
A student and faculty voice on the Board of Trustees
Advocating for the establishment of four additional spots on the Board of Trustees to be filled by students and faculty, Reclaim MSU created a two-part policy proposal to amend the Board of Trustee bylaws and the Michigan State Constitution.
In the beginning of March, the Associated Students of MSU, or ASMSU, passed a bill advocating for something similar — an amendment to be added to Michigan’s constitution which would reserve "at least one" voting position on the board for a student.
In support of their two-part proposal, Scott and Tebay have both signed Reclaim MSU's candidate pledge, agreeing that students and faculty should have a voice on the board.
"Students, faculty and staff that walk this campus everyday — you know best what this university needs," Scott said. "And if we're not talking with you and really engaging to get your input, then how do we know that the decisions that we're making are going to be the best for you."
Scott said if she were elected, she would hold town halls for students to hear their input, questions and concerns. Miller said he would start "Tuesdays with a Trustee" and would like to meet with various student organizations across campus, including ASMSU and the Council of Graduate Students, or COGS.
Tebay fully supports amending the constitution to include a student and faculty vote on the Board of Trustees, and said while that's going through the legislative process, she will explore other ways to involve faculty and students on the board.
She said Wayne State University revised its bylaws to give student members on their committees certain rights.
"There are ways around the constitution that we can have representation, and I am 100 percent in support of that," Tebay said. "I think that's extremely important for trust of the board, and for us moving forward as a community."
Dutch said when it comes to amending the constitution to add student and faculty voice to the board, he would support what the voters of Michigan choose.
"There will come a time when you need to have a voting session or an executive session, and I think that's appropriate and a privilege of the board," Dutch said, "But I'm totally receptive to having some level of Board participation from the University at large."
A more inclusive presidential search process
Last week, the presidential search committee held its final input session, which both Dutch and Miller attended. At these sessions, members of the campus community were asked to provide input on what qualifications and characteristics they want to see in a new university president.
Currently, the notes taken at the sessions are being compiled, and the committee will begin to write the position description. The position description will become the MSU president job posting.
Members of the public will not be involved with this phase of the presidential search process.
Reclaim MSU released a statement expressing distrust in the presidential search, stating that "by not designing an open and inclusive process for our presidential search, the MSU Board of Trustees continues to fail our campus."
At the forum, Andaluna Borcila, a James Madison professor and a member of Reclaim MSU, asked a couple of the candidates if they would push for an open presidential search given that they are elected. Specifically, if they would push for the presidential candidates to be able to meet publicly in town halls for members of the MSU community.
Scott replied with "absolutely." Miller agreed.
"You should be a part of who we hire," Miller said. "Because whoever that person is, they're going to represent us all as Spartans, and as a board member, I would support your involvement in picking the next president."
Tebay said transparency, accessibility and accountability are three things that the current MSU Board of Trustees lacks.
"I want our committee meetings, our presidential search to be open," Tebay said. "I want our Open Meetings Act to actually be followed so that people actually have a voice in the room and our decisions are actually informed by those that are here, on campus every day."
Two of these four candidates will join the Board of Trustees after the Nov. 6 election.