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Dianne Byrum elected chairperson of the MSU Board of Trustees

January 9, 2019
Trustee Diane Byrum answers questions from the media during a press conference with Trustee Melanie Foster on June 27, 2018 in the Plant and Soil Sciences Building.  Their conference laid out the Board of Trustees' timeline for selecting a new president.
Trustee Diane Byrum answers questions from the media during a press conference with Trustee Melanie Foster on June 27, 2018 in the Plant and Soil Sciences Building. Their conference laid out the Board of Trustees' timeline for selecting a new president. —
Photo by Matt Schmucker | The State News

Dianne Byrum is the new chairperson of the MSU Board of Trustees.

Byrum was elected by a 5-3 vote, with Trustees Joel Ferguson, Melanie Foster, Dan Kelly, Brianna Scott and herself voting in favor. Trustee Brian Mosallam was also nominated, and received votes from Trustees Nancy Schlichting, Kelly Tebay and himself.

Kelly was unanimously elected vice chair, being the only trustee nominated. Article 4 of the board’s bylaws states the vice chair must not come from the same party as the chair, meaning only Kelly and Foster, elected as Republicans, were eligible.

Byrum is replacing former Trustee Brian Breslin, who did not run for re-election. Kelly is replacing Trustee Joel Ferguson.

“I want to welcome my new colleagues on the board and congratulate you for both your election and then Nancy, for you nomination to the board to fill the vacancy of George Perles,” Byrum said. 

Byrum is also co-chair of the presidential search committee alongside Trustee Foster. She plays a role in choosing MSU’s next president when the committee concludes their search.

“As the incoming chair of this board, I am very humbled, very honored to take this responsibility very seriously,” Byrum said. “I am committed to work with all of the trustees on this board so we can facilitate change throughout Michigan State University, understanding that that change will only occur with all of our participation.”

Vice chairperson Dan Kelly also addressed the new trustees and said they were a welcome addition to the board. 

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“I’ve been very impressed obviously with just the short amount of communication that we’ve had with them,” Kelly said. 

Kelly thanked the board for nominating him as vice chairperson. He noted he hasn’t been in the public eye much while serving on the board.

“I know that in the past couple of years, it’s been difficult for me and I haven’t talked a whole lot to the public,” Kelly said. “That’s my mistake. I want to be more open with the public.” 

He said he’d attempt to be more open to the public and share his deliberations as vice chair moving forward.

Following the meeting, Mosallam voiced his support for Byrum.

“I think Dianne is wonderful, I look forward to working with Dianne,” Mosallam said. “Dianne and I have been together on several, several issues … I have no problem working with her, and working with Dan Kelly. I think we can move this university forward.”

Mosallam also spoke positively of Kelly and the new board members, expressing optimism for the coming session.

“I think that the new trustees are poised for change, I think they plan on working with survivors,” Mosallam said. “I think we’re heading in the right direction, I really do.”

The meeting was initially delayed about 40 minutes beyond its scheduled start. Mosallam told members of the press the meeting was delayed because of a 4-4 split vote “impasse.” 

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Kelly switched his vote from Mosallam to Byrum in order to prevent Ferguson, the previous vice chair, from being made chair in the event of a split vote, Mosallam said. He said Kelly’s decision was a sign of great leadership, and he was appreciative of his initial support for chair.

Some of Ferguson’s comments during the Nassar cases, like referring to them as “just this Nassar thing,” were criticised for being dismissive, and met with calls for his resignation.

“Dan understood the ramifications of a 4-4 public vote,” Mosallam said. “He understood the perception of how that would look publicly.”

Mosallam also said Kelly had no prior interest in the vice chair position. Mosallam had concerns about the optics of electing Foster as vice chair, as Byrum and foster are co-chairs of the presidential search.

“Dan was not interested in the position, but I think it was something that we all felt we needed to do,” Mosallam said. “Dan Kelly is a very pragmatic, very fair — Dan Kelly is a very good leader … He’s an asset to this board.”

This article was updated at 12:50 p.m. to include statements from trustees.

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