Saturday, June 6, 2020

Editorial: Wanda Blanchett best equipped for provost role

<p>Courtesy photo. </p>

Courtesy photo.

Michigan State will soon appoint one of three finalists to the position of provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. 

The position carries a magnitude of responsibility behind it — the provost works closely with President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. to hire deans and professors while administering their promotions across the board.  

June Youatt, the last permanent provost, resigned after an investigation from the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights concluded she knew of complaints against William Strampel, the former dean of Osteopathic Medicine who enabled ex-MSU doctor Larry Nassar’s decades of sexual abuse and who was himself found guilty of sexual misconduct. 

In Strampel’s trial, Youatt testified that she knew of complaints against him but still recommended he remain as dean. Strampel was released early from jail last month.

The next provost is unable to rewrite the past, but they can chart out a path for the future. 

The State News endorses Wanda Blanchett for the open provost position, not just because she has an impressive set of qualifications and plans for diversity inclusion, but because she focuses on students, research and the integrity of the university.

The provost search committee selected strong candidates with many admirable qualities and accolades. 

Blanchett made a powerful first impression that stuck with us at The State News as we evaluated the merits of each finalist.

We believe Blanchett would provide a refreshing outside perspective to the administration and is the right fit to tackle the issues that face our community.

She made a point to focus on the expansion of student research, has BIG Ten experience and a strong academic background. She crafted a structure for diversity, equity and inclusion at Rutgers University and has her own research background in educational inequity and disproportionate representation — experience Michigan State needs

Antonio Dwayne Tillis would make an excellent choice, as he’s played a role in university administration at multiple institutions including Dartmouth College. However, Blanchett’s depth of experience at Rutgers is preferable to Tillis’ breadth of experience because she has a dedicated focus on students and ways to improve opportunities for them.

Teresa Woodruff also has BIG Ten experience and her 56-page CV is impressive, but Blanchett’s expertise draws a necessary contrast to Stanley’s background in medicine. While her accomplishments at Northwestern are astounding, Rutgers is a more diverse university that shares MSU’s land-grant mission.

MSU is planning a university-wide diversity assessment with educational programming and a multicultural building. Stanley voiced concerns in our interview with him on April 2 that the pandemic might delay these initiatives. Blanchett is not only the best candidate to follow through on MSU’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, but to bring proactive responses to the table.

In addition, Blanchett showed in her public forum that she has an understanding of the challenges MSU has faced in the last few years. Just two years ago, the university community was engulfed in crisis related to the sexual abuse cases against Nassar, and MSU’s handling of the situation led to protests, resignations and a widespread distrust of the university.

MSU needs transparency and integrity in its provost role, and Blanchett understands that.

“I know I have the integrity and honesty and transparency you desire,” Blanchett said. “Regardless of how this turns out — Michigan State will emerge from COVID-19 and all of the other challenges that you've been dealing with, better than it was before.”

Although it’s difficult to choose between the three finalists to be MSU’s next provost, Wanda Blanchett stands out as the best equipped to any challenge that might come our way.

The State News Editorial Board is composed of Editor-in-Chief Madison O’Connor, Managing Editor Mila Murray, Copy Chief Alan Hettinger, Campus Editor Evan Jones, City Editor Haley Sinclair, Sports Editor Chase Michaelson, Photo Editor Annie Barker, Multimedia Editor Tessa Osborne, Social Media and Engagement Editor Wolfgang Ruth, Staff Representative Maddie Monroe and Diversity and Inclusion Representative Chandra Fleming.

Multimedia Editor Tessa Osborne abstained from voting. Social Media and Engagement Editor Wolfgang Ruth and Staff Representative Maddie Monroe did not sit in on this editorial board meeting.

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