Michigan State Board of Trustees members Kelly Tebay and Brianna Scott held a town hall at the MSU Union Monday afternoon. Many topics were discussed, including fixing the lower graduation rate of African American students and issues students are facing with flat rate tuition.
The meeting also brought forth a lot of discussion about the paused independent investigation into MSU's handling of reports against Larry Nassar's abuse.
Many attended to speak out and ask questions about the investigation, waiving attorney-client privilege and the board's previous problems with transparency.
Graham Pierce — a member of Reclaim MSU — was one of the community members who spoke out about these issues.
“'Fiduciary responsibility' I see getting used constantly by the board as to why we're not taking steps that deal with the integrity of this institution,” Pierce said. “It's been the only reason given as to why we are not waiving privilege, it's the only reason given for killing the independent investigation. It's always been fiduciary responsibility, and that has really been prioritized over the integrity of this institution and the well being of the people in this institution and the community.”
Pierce said he's worried the board is prioritizing money over the community's concerns. Scott responded by saying that she does not believe she, or any other member of the board, is putting money first.
“I don’t like to look at it as completely one thing or the other,” Scott said. “I really think my viewpoint is more of a middle ground and doing things in a certain order so we can do everything that we can to safeguard the ability to get finances so that this university can continue to operate.”
An issue brought up multiple times during the town hall was the waiving of attorney-client privilege, which would release all documents from investigations into MSU's handling of reports against Nassar to the Michigan Attorney General's investigation.
“It seems to me that the whole issue of waiving privilege ... has been a very loaded issue,” Andaluna Borcila, a member of Reclaim MSU, said. “This is an issue that has been dealt with by the board that you are a part of in a very non-transparent way. All that we know is that the board chooses to use insurance litigation as their rationale for not cooperating with the Attorney General's office.”
Both Scott and Tebay responded by saying they are not opposed to setting a public vote for waiving privilege, but Scott believes an independent investigation is pointless until it is waived.
“This is a timing issue for us, while I'm not able to say at this time I would agree with waiving privilege,” Scott said. “I would say that once we are done, that would be the right thing to do, once we have completely cleared the settlement negotiations we have with the insurance carrier.”
Both trustees said they were happy with how the town hall went, but both said they were hoping for a larger, more diverse turnout, specifically with more student groups. Both urge that in order for them to make change happen, people need to speak their concerns.
The town hall was scheduled for 3 p.m. Monday, and the crowd mostly consisted of community members who were not MSU students.
“People should feel they can speak up,” Tebay said. “That's something that's important, finding the person that you feel comfortable doing and continuing to make sure your voice is heard, whether that's through press ... or through private channels. I just think that's important for people to be heard.”