Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Letter: Michigan State's presidential search needs to be open

The John A. Hannah Administration Building on Jan. 10, 2019.
The John A. Hannah Administration Building on Jan. 10, 2019. —
Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

By the James Madison College Student Senate

We call for an open presidential search. We believe the presidential candidates, having reached the finalist stage, should participate in open forums with the community as measures to ensure our future president represents our interests. As students, we believe that our needs must be represented and that our president is invested in them. Due to the contentious environment at MSU these last two years, it is even more important that our next president embodies our values.

We need a president that connects with MSU on a personal level in order to ensure that the needs of students, faculty, staff and the greater MSU community are met. An open search will be a preliminary test on this point as it requires the presidential candidates to engage in conversation with the community before their appointment. It also serves as a test to ensure the presidential finalists understand and sympathize with the needs of students and the MSU community’s needs.

The past two years have additionally broken the trust many of us have placed in the MSU institution by our enrollment. There have been too many mistakes made, and the institution has been resistant to learn from or apologize for the choices of its administration. One of the most clearly visible examples is the hiring of Interim President John Engler, who recently resigned after making disheartening, insensitive and untrue comments about survivors of sexual assault.

Engler was elected without community engagement, and after months of community protest at the choice of said interim president and the egregious comments he made, it is evident that choice was a failure. These choices have left little trust in the Board of Trustees to make a suitable choice for president without student and community participation. They can no longer claim the benefit of the doubt.

The president will be a guiding figure and visible representative in improving MSU and providing the change that our community needs. This president can either be a positive influence of difference or someone who continues the current culture of silencing students and the community. In order to create an atmosphere of trust, those at the top, most importantly the president, need to lead by example. If the new president is not an example of positive change, one that welcomes the student voice, then we will not have learned from our previous mistakes and our university will continue to suffer. If the wrong choice is made again, we cannot easily turn back. Therefore, it is best for the community to ensure that this does not occur.

As students we eagerly await the arrival of our new president and call for an open search with our participation.

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