Sunday, December 5, 2021

Meet the 2020 MSU Board of Trustees candidates

September 3, 2020
<p>Students gather outside of the Hannah Administration Building for a Divestment Day protest on Feb. 14, 2020. </p>

Students gather outside of the Hannah Administration Building for a Divestment Day protest on Feb. 14, 2020.

Photo by Matt Zubik | The State News

Michigan's political parties have started announcing their candidates for the Michigan State University Board of Trustees as the Nov. 3 election approaches. Here is a look at the candidates competing for the two spots on MSU’s board:

Democratic

Brian Mosallam

Mosallam is the only incumbent running for reelection, as Trustee Joel Ferguson announced in August that he was no longer seeking reelection, after serving three terms. Mosallam was first elected to the board for an eight-year term in 2012.

He is a former MSU football player and the president of Spartan Wealth Management. He was also one of two candidates to receive an endorsement from the Michigan AFL-CIO.

In June, he put out a support video from Larry Nassar survivor Kaylee Lorincz to launch his campaign.

In the video Lorincz highlights times Mosallam had assisted her in reaching justice from the university, including his call for the resignation of John Engler as interim MSU president, who was highly criticized for comments he made about survivors.

In summer 2018, Mosallam called for Engler's termination as interim president. At the time, Mosallam and Chair of the board Dianne Byrum were the only trustees that supported Engler’s termination.

Lorincz finished her support statement by saying, “he has unfinished business” on the board.

In a tweet, Mosallam also included the support of survivor Amanda Smith, founder of Parents of Sister Survivors Engage, or POSSE, Valerie von Frank and Rachael Denhollander, the first survivor to publicly accuse Nassar of abuse. 

In January, a letter from Reclaim MSU asked both incumbent candidates to “step aside” in the 2020 election as they believe the legacy trustees – Byrum, Dan Kelly, Melanie Foster, Ferguson and Mosallam – have failed MSU during their years of service on the board. 

Rema Vassar

Democratic candidate Vassar is a former K-12 public school teacher, counselor, administrator and parent organizer. 

She was the other candidate to receive an endorsement from the Michigan AFL-CIO.

She has also received an endorsement from the United Auto Workers, or UAW, a number of other organizations and democratic county groups across the state prior to receiving the party's official nomination Aug. 29. Ferguson has also expressed his support for her.

On her website, she listed her priorities as student leadership development, student safety and healing, transparency and accountability, affordability and equity, and access.

Her husband is a two-time alumnus, and her daughter is a current sophomore at MSU.

Her website said that they are counting on her to, “work hard and restore MSU to international prominence with a dedication to equity, access, inclusion, and safety for every student, faculty, staff, and alum.”

Republican

Pat O'Keefe

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O’Keefe is a Republican candidate for the board. He is an MSU alumnus and founder and CEO of strategic and financial consulting firm O’Keefe.

He is running on a six-point platform focusing on prioritizing Michigan students, protecting free speech, making college affordable, ensuring students’ safety, innovating learning technology and preparing citizen-students, according to his website. 

His website said he is, “a true conservative who believes the voices of conservative students at MSU have been silenced for too long.” 

He is seeking to protect free speech for all members of the MSU community including conservative speech that has been suppressed on campus, he said in a release

The Republican Party held a runoff election Aug. 30 for their second nominee between O'Keefe and Rick Wendorf, with O'Keefe ultimately winning and taking the spot on the ballot.

Tonya Schuitmaker

Schuitmaker is a former Michigan State senator who represented the 26th district from 2011 to 2018. She was the president pro tempore of the Senate for the duration of her term in office.

Prior to her time on the senate, she served in the Michigan State House of Representatives three times since 2004.

She received her B.A. in business from MSU in 1990.

She was the first to receive her nomination for the board from the Michigan Republican Party on Aug. 29. Schuitmaker's campaign slogan is, "Conservative Leadership, Building a Healthy Future."

Green Party

Brandon Hu

Hu is a rising computer science senior at MSU and Green Party nominee. 

At MSU they have been involved with MSU Youth Democratic Socialist Association, the Spartans for Sanders campaign, the Bernie Sanders campaign and the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaign.

As a student, Hu has been able to see issues in transparency among the board, administrators and students. 

On top of Green Party values, they hope to see a stronger, more specific statement about environmental sustainability and urban planning, such as more public transportation and creating more walkable cities, according to a candidate questionnaire with the Michigan Green Party.

Robin Laurain

Laurain is a Green Party nominee for the board. She is a licensed practical nurse currently finishing the nursing home administrator's program at MSU.

She is currently the co-chair of the Green Party of Michigan and planning to bring the Green New Deal to MSU.

She said MSU students encouraged her to run because they were tired of the “legacy trustees” on the board.

Her priorities include increased campus security, higher minority enrollment and graduation rates, increased student and staff diversity, tuition control, increased awareness of the needs of LGBTQIA+ students and staff, promoting campus unity and cooperation with the community and raising money for the university to be fiscally sound.

In 2018, Laurain ran for the House of Representatives for the 68th district.

Libertarian

Will White

Libertarian candidate White is continuing his education at MSU in economic development and political science, according to his resume. He described himself as a serial entrepreneur and has 30 years of service and property management experience.

He listed the managing of MSU's budget as one of his main priorities, especially in the wake of COVID-19 and the challenges that come with it financially.

On his website, he highlighted his commitment to promoting sustainable and effective economic development in higher education, which he defined as sustained, concerted actions of policymakers and communities to promote and improve the standard of living and economic health of the community.

He believes MSU should be a comprehensive vision embraced by the public, university staff, the business community and elected officials that work together toward mutual goals.

Natural Law

Bridgette Abraham-Guzman

Abraham-Guzman is the Natural Law candidate. She also ran for a seat in 2018, receiving a .72% of the vote, according to the 2018 Michigan Election results.

U.S. Taxpayers

According to the U.S. Taxpayers of Michigan website, the party is an affiliate of the Constitution Party and seeks to cut the government size down. 

The party is nominating two people to fill the open spots on the Board of Trustees, including Janet Sanger and John Paul Sanger

John Paul Sanger is a private practice attorney according to ballotready. Both also ran for the Board in 2018, receiving a combined 2.05% of the votes.

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