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Michigan State Board of Trustees meeting addresses racist incidents on campus

October 25, 2019
President Samuel L. Stanley addresses the media during a press conference after the Oct. 25 Board of Trustees meeting.
President Samuel L. Stanley addresses the media during a press conference after the Oct. 25 Board of Trustees meeting.

The Michigan State University Board of Trustees meeting Friday morning was held one week after a toilet paper noose was hung on the door of two black residents living in Bryan Hall. Throughout the week, more reported racist incidents took place, including a Sona survey through the College of Communication Arts and Sciences that featured slurs and derogatory language.

The board addressed these incidences during the meeting.

"Safety includes being able to feel safe, respected and welcome," President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said during the president's report. "Recent events have made it clear that many students do not feel that way, and when confronted with acts of bias, or when they hear about them, they respond."

Stanley has been meeting with student leaders about the acts, and addressed the larger MSU community in an email Tuesday afternoon.

"I will continue to work closely with the campus community as we start strategic planning processes and a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion will be a core value in our planning as we go forward," Stanley said.

During a press conference after the meeting, Stanley declined to comment on what he anticipated would happen to the students and faculty member responsible for the incidents. Because both incidents are still under investigation, there have been no consequences for those responsible for either event.

"I want everyone in the MSU community and students to know that we do take this very seriously," Trustee Dianne Byrum said. "We do understand that there are impacts to our MSU community and that there is more work that we need to do — and that will happen. We will do that work."

Stanley also said, because the incident involving the noose was still under investigation, he would not comment on whether or not he believed it was a Halloween prank. He did note that the people responsible did come forward and explain the situation from their point of view.

He touched on the impact these incidents had on those affected.

Stanley said the university is creating a strategic plan for the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and will be conducting a search for a chief diversity officer.

"I also want to express, to those that have been affected by some of the incidents that happened over the last week, our sincere sorrow for what they have gone through," Trustee Brianna Scott said. "I do believe that this is really a learning lesson and a learning opportunity for those of us on the board as well as those that were involved, and I look towards moving forward as we learn from this in what to do better so that we don't continue down this past in the future."

Backlash the university has received in regards to these incidents has often been related to the lack of communication and transparency about the events, which is something the Black Student Alliance (BSA) demanded the university repair during their forum Tuesday night.

Stanley said he had heard the demands, and would work with the leadership at the university to have a better system of communication.

"We want all of our students to feel included and welcome on this university campus, so that was very important for all of us and I do want you to know, we are working towards rectifying these manners and making sure that these incidents don't happen in the future," Scott said.

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