Saturday, July 4, 2020

Editorial: Vote Scott, Tebay for trustees — but not because of party

MSU Board of Trustees Candidate Brianna Scott speaks at the MSU Board of Trustees Candidate Forum at Wells Hall on Oct. 2, 2018.
MSU Board of Trustees Candidate Brianna Scott speaks at the MSU Board of Trustees Candidate Forum at Wells Hall on Oct. 2, 2018. —
Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

The State News endorses Democratic candidates Brianna Scott and Kelly Tebay, but their party — unlike our endorsement of all other candidates — is not what gets them the nod.

In fact, this editorial board disapproves of the partisan nature of our trustee elections, and we believe this process led to the nomination of underwhelming candidates from both parties.

We arrived at the endorsement of Scott and Tebay more out of a process of elimination than out of genuine approval, but their campaigns have provided some hope.

Scott is the mother of an MSU student, and therefore has the most direct link to campus concerns. It shows. She is outspoken about the cost of attending MSU, advocating for a program similar to the University of Michigan’s free tuition program and for more town halls with the administration.

Scott also represents a chance to shake up the demographics of the board. As a black woman, her victory alone would increase representation of racial minorities and women on the board by 50 percent from its current makeup.

Tebay also supports a free tuition program for low-income students. Their election would double the board’s female representation and split it evenly by gender.

The board’s failures under Dianne Byrum and Melanie Foster prove gender is not an automatic qualifier for sensitivity to sexual assault issues. The board’s optics would be improved in the worst case, and in the ideal scenario, an even gender split would encourage trustees to more effectively address the needs of women and femmes on campus.

We have serious concerns about the two, despite our endorsements. Neither candidate has offered concrete plans for MSU’s future that don’t require the alignment of formidable outside factors, and both campaigns have made errors.

Kudos to the candidates who denounced university operations as opaque and self-serving. Three candidates supported specific plans to add student involvement to the administrative process, from Tebay and Scott’s pledge to institute Reclaim MSU’s demands to Miller’s “Tuesday with a Trustee” plan.

Even these could be nothing more than political talking points, either too narrow-minded or far-fetched to achieve the immediate institutional change MSU needs.

Reclaim MSU’s call for a full-voting student representative requires an amendment to the state Constitution — far from a guarantee in today’s polarized Legislature. And Miller can ask Brian Mosallam how much morale actually improves when only one trustee takes the time to meet with students.

While sexual assault and administrative transparency are the two most pressing issues facing the university — and the candidates largely agreed on how best to confront these challenges — other issues are what took Dutch and Miller out of consideration.

Dutch’s belief that allowing fear-mongering bigots like Richard Spencer to speak on campus somehow contributes to the betterment of public discourse is disqualifying.

Spencer’s pathetic turnout for his white-power rally during the 2018 spring break, which can be directly attributed to student action, does not excuse MSU for so easily settling with a man who believes in “peaceful ethnic cleansing.” Spencer aims to manipulate the intent of the First Amendment by throwing the word “peaceful” in front of a phrase otherwise used to describe the mass murders of six million Jews, two million Cambodians and countless other atrocities throughout human history.

We cannot continue to have people in this university’s highest reaches who are willing to settle with Nazis openly advocating for genocide, simply because they’re smart enough to pretty up their speech and file a lawsuit.

Likewise, Miller’s belief in an on-campus gun policy derails an otherwise worthy campaign. After a week — a week where 11 Jewish people were slaughtered for celebrating a birth and two black people were murdered for grocery shopping — we refuse to validate the belief that guns have a place in public areas, especially at a place of education.

No matter who wins the general election, those two trustees must be prepared to go beyond politics and campaign promises and create actual change within the university. 

Time and time again at MSU, we have seen opportunistic leaders exploit students’ frustrations and survivors’ trauma, using promises of change to gain favor while committing nothing of substance to the university’s healing and growth.

We believe Scott and Tebay represent the best chances to break that cycle. We implore them to commit to better understanding their powers and responsibilities, and to resist complacency that almost certainly threatens to set in during an eight-year term.

The State News Editorial Board is made up of the Editor-in-Chief Marie Weidmayer, Managing Editor Riley Murdock, Campus Editor Kaitlyn Kelley, City Editor Maxwell Evans, Features Editor Claire Moore, Sports Editor Michael Duke, Photo Editor Matt Schmucker, Copy Chief Alan Hettinger, Diversity Representative S.F. McGlone and Staff Representative Anna Liz Nichols.

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