In the midst of the ex-MSU doctor Larry Nassar cases, the MSU Board of Trustees received criticism for continuing to support former President Lou Anna K. Simon, despite widespread calls for her resignation. Criticized for the university’s inaction and for mishandling reports of Nassar’s abuse, Simon resigned Jan. 24, and calls for the Board of Trustees to do the same soon followed.
Although the distrust expressed from the community never resulted any board resginations, the terms of Trustees Mitch Lyons and Brian Breslin are up, and they are not running for re-election.
Two seats on the Board of Trustees are now open and will be filled after the upcoming election Nov. 6. Four candidates are running for these open spots, Democrats Brianna Scott and Kelly Tebay and Republicans Dave Dutch and Mike Miller.
As the fallout from the Nassar case continues, criticism of the administration does as well. All of the candidates said they are running because they want to be part of a cultural change.
“A silver lining to this whole debacle at Michigan State is that people are paying attention to these races,” Tebay said. “I think it’s very important that we set this tone. People are paying attention to why these positions matter.”
During her freshman orientation, Tebay was told that one in four women would be sexually assaulted during their time at MSU.
“That was the tone they set for us on day one, and unfortunately for me, I became that statistic my freshman year,” Tebay said. “When we’re having these conversations about sexual assault on campus, it’s personal for me.”
If she were to become a trustee, she said she would be committed to ensuring no one experiences what she did on campus.
Tebay said she decided to run for Board of Trustees because everyone on the board is far removed from their time at MSU. Receiving her bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the university in 2008 and her master’s degree in Law Enforcement Intelligence and Analysis in 2011, she said she understands the culture differently than the current board.
“I definitely understand that day to day lack of cohesion between the administration and what was going on on campus,” Tebay said.
Tebay is committed to more student voices on campus. In support of their two-part proposal, Scott and Tebay both signed Reclaim MSU’s candidate pledge, agreeing students and faculty should have a voice on the board.
Tebay wants to fix university bylaws to ensure faculty and student voice is on the board.
“Having them be part of the solution is how we fix this, how we regain trust, how we heal as a community,” Tebay said.
Tebay said survivors should have been included on the presidential search committee.
“We’re still seeming to miss the mark sometimes but I do feel like we’re getting better,” Tebay said. “I am someone who will always make sure these voices are lifted up.”
Before Miller decided to run for Board of Trustees, he needed to ask his daughter.
“Most importantly in this whole mess, I needed to ask my daughter, who was a four-year volleyball player at Michigan State, had been a competitive gymnast, and actually been in the gym where Larry Nassar starred,” Miller said. “We knew Larry, we knew who he was.”
His daughter was treated by Nassar.
“I asked her, ‘Are you okay with that? Are you comfortable with me going forward?" And frankly, I think that was one of the most touching conversations we’ve ever had,” Miller said. "She said, ‘Look, I know you’d be the right guy. You’d make sure this doesn’t happen again, and that everything was done to ensure that it didn’t.’”
If Miller is elected, he said he would be committed to finding out more about MSU’s mishandling of the Nassar cases.
“My concern would be that I turned over every stone, we had a completed investigation by the attorney general’s office, as to who knew what, where, when and how in the Nassar crisis,” Miller said. “That we had identified all the people that had any capability or responsibility for either covering it up, or somehow justifying it.”
At age 20, Scott was a student at MSU. She worked two jobs, was a single mother, became the president of her sorority and would later go onto law school.
“Being a minority woman, someone who struggled myself when I was on campus, who was on welfare, who was poor and struggled to graduate financially, I really can relate to what other people are struggling with,” Scott said.
Scott currently has a son who attends MSU.
“Being a parent of a current student, I can relate to the high cost of tuition and some of the hard decision making that families have to make when they send their kids off to school, or that students are making,” Scott said. “Some of them don’t have the privilege of having parents to pay for their education.”
Scott is an attorney with a prosecutorial background.She said she hopes to use her professional background if she were to be elected.
“Being an assistant prosecutor, I worked on criminal sexual conduct crimes,” Scott said. “I’ve been a victims’ advocate.”
Growing up in East Lansing, receiving an MBA at MSU and watching three of his children attend the university, Dutch always entertained the idea of being on the MSU Board of Trustees. It wasn’t until earlier this semester–when all eyes were on the university–that Dutch decided he was going to run.
“I saw what happened, and I saw that a lot of people who would normally run weren’t, because they didn’t want to go through the pain and the hassle,” Dutch said. “But for me, I just thought about, ‘Wow, we really need some help here,’ and I think I’m uniquely qualified. You need someone to run a big business, and culturally sensitive and inclusive by nature.”
Dutch led businesses through cultural changes throughout his career. Though the position of a trustee is part-time, he wants to treat it as a full-time job. If elected, he said his number one priority would be to rebuild trust.
“That’s a big problem at our university, people don’t feel like they have a voice, people don’t feel like they’re included” Dutch said. “We have to solve that before anything else. If your constituents don’t have faith in you, your alumni don’t have faith in you, it’s tough to build a healthy and happy institution.”