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Campus political organizations react to new MSU trustees

January 16, 2019
Trustees Schlichting and Scott listen to presentations at the MSU Board of Trustees meeting on Wednesday, January 9, 2019.
Trustees Schlichting and Scott listen to presentations at the MSU Board of Trustees meeting on Wednesday, January 9, 2019. —
Photo by Matt Zubik | The State News

The MSU Board of Trustees welcomed three new members during their first meeting of the semester. 

Last November, Michigan residents elected Brianna Scott and Kelly Tebay to fill two open spots on the MSU Board of Trustees. Over break, then-Gov. Snyder appointed former Henry Ford Health CEO Nancy Schlichting to the board to replace former Trustee George Perles.

Though the MSU Board of Trustees operates in a non-partisan manner, the major political parties nominate the candidates. Prior to the November 2018 election, several on-campus political student organizations endorsed candidates as well.

The MSU College Democrats, James Madison College Conservatives and other groups met with Gov. Rick Snyder's Chief of Staff Dick Posthumus before Snyder chose his appointment. They discussed the qualities they wanted to see in the new trustee and provided a list of potential candidates.

Schlichting was not on the list. However, many of the organizations report they are happy with the pick. 

“We wanted someone who doesn’t have that much political history,” President of the MSU College Democrats Carter Oselett said. “If you're elected and you're elected with a party, you have to go with that party. (Nancy has) never run for political office. So it’s nice that she’s kind of an independent person going in.” 

Along with Schlichting’s appointment, the MSU College Democrats are also happy with the election results and expect to see positive changes come about. They endorsed both Scott and Tebay — both Democratic candidates — and worked alongside them during the election cycle.  

Similarly, James Madison College Conservatives, or JMCC, are hopeful the new trustees will do what's best for MSU. While the organization chose not to endorse any candidates, they hope Scott, Tebay and Schlichting keep student perspectives in mind.

“As an organization, we’ve talked about the need for these trustees to really kind of gauge student opinions and student interest in some of these decisions that they’re making," JMCC President Adam Green said. "I think that is a very bipartisan thing.”  

The MSU College Republicans declined to comment but issued a statement to The State News. They endorsed Dave Dutch and Mike Miller, both Republican candidates in the 2018 Board of Trustees election.  

“While the candidates we supported in the 2018 election may not have won, the College Republicans at Michigan State are hopeful that Trustees Scott and Tebay will make the best decisions for the University," Jeremiah Ward, communications director of the MSU College Republicans, said "We strongly support former Governor Snyder's selection of Nancy Schlichting to replace former Trustee Perles. We believe Trustee Schlichting's business experience will prove an asset to the Board and the University as a whole."

Other organizations are waiting to see how the new trustees perform their duties before fully forming an opinion. However, alongside other political organizations, the MSU Young Democratic Socialists of America, or YDSA, and the Young Americans for Liberty at MSU, or YAL, have found aspects of the new trustees they hope to see. 

“At the end of the day, I think there are the opportunities for good things to happen because she (Schlichting) is more left-leaning, but I’m more focused on the results of her work rather than making a call now and getting a little bit too optimistic," Co-Chair of YDSA Charlotte Nana said. "I still believe that it’s important to hold MSU accountable for making things better for our students." 

The Young Americans for Liberty at MSU are excited about Schlichting's strong business background and would like to see all the new trustees focus on the budget as well as stay transparent. They don’t believe politics should be a significant part in the work they do. 

“The board's most important goal is to manage the budget, oversee the budget, approve the budget. And so if they just keep the cost of tuition low and do their job, so students can afford to come here, I think that’s the most important thing they have to do," Lee Spalding, vice president of YAL, said. "I don’t think there’s a lot of politics that play into that, but liberals aren’t the best at balancing a budget, so that’s the only thing that concerns me a little bit." 

While these different organizations have varying opinions on the new trustees, one of the biggest issues many of these organizations hope to see addressed is the matter of sexual assault on campus. 

The MSU College Democrats, JMCC and YDSA expressed similar sentiments regarding the need for the board to take a stance regarding the Healing Assistance Fund, which they unanimously voted to re-open at the last meeting. 

"We're pleased with the recent re-opening of the ... Healing Fund," Oselett said via text message, "and we encourage the Board of Trustees to ensure the fund is used responsibly, properly and as promised."

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