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Building named after KKK member changed, Melissa Woo appointed as EVP for Administration

September 11, 2020
<p>Front doors of Michigan State University&#x27;s Nisbet Human Resources Building on Friday, September 4, 2020.</p>

Front doors of Michigan State University's Nisbet Human Resources Building on Friday, September 4, 2020.

The Michigan State Board of Trustees approved various shifts in administration, as well as the renaming of the university building named after Stephen Nisbet due to his connections to the Ku Klux Klan.

Building name removal

Stephen Nisbet — grandson of former board of trustees member Stephen Nisbet — opposed the name change of the human resource building during the board of trustees meeting. The decision to rename the building followed an investigation into Stephen Nisbet’s affiliation with the KKK during the 1920s. 

Nisbet's grandson believes the investigation is incomplete.

“Another reason to discount your finding is my discovery of a membership card with my grandfather's name although an incorrect spelling of his first name, it is not his signature, and with an incorrect resident address," Nisbet said.  

Ultimately, the board voted to change the name of the human resources building to 1407 S. Harrison Rd. until an official name is decided.

“I recognize the unfortunate impact on the Nisbet family but our decision is not about Mr. Nisbet’s family or even his contributions to educational, public or corporate life in Michigan," MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said. "Instead, it’s about acknowledging that the KKK has been involved in extreme racism and horrific violence towards Black Americans.” 

Administration changes

The board of trustees also voted in a favor of Stanley’s recommendation to appoint Melissa Woo as executive vice president for administration, or EVPA. In an email sent to the Spartan community Wednesday, Stanley explained his recommendation and other changes to administration. 

Woo currently serves as the senior vice president for information technology and chief information officer, or CIO. With this appointment, Woo will serve as both the executive vice president for administration and CIO. 

Melissa Woo was the only person President Stanley considered for the role.

“She was for me such an obvious fit for the job,” he said in a press conference after the meeting. “Her ability to be a strong administrator and work with others, to build an outstanding team was very impressive.” 

The EVPA position has been vacant for a year. Satish Udpa served as the EVPA last year but became interim president after former president John Engler resigned. After president Stanley was appointed, Udpa returned to his role as EVPA. Shortly after his return, Udpa resigned from his role and returned to the lab and research work at MSU. 

Stanley also recommended to the board of trustees that a new position be created, senior vice president and chief financial officer. The need for this position is stressed now that Woo will serve as both the EVPA and CIO. 

“We don’t have a chief financial officer," MSU spokesperson Emily Guerrant said. "Many other institutions do, many corporate organizations do and you have a different structure for how the financial decisions and planning and budgeting happens at the university. Over the past year, Dr. Stanley has felt like that was a missing hole in our organization.” 

The Board of Trustees approved the creation of senior vice president and chief financial officer. A national search will be conducted to fill the role.

Other adjustments have been made to administration. Vennie Gore, vice president for auxiliary enterprises will now report to Stanley. In the past, he reported to the EVPA. 

Student affairs and services will also be reporting to Gore, following Denise Maybank's acceptance of a position at the City University of New York.

“The university’s central finance units and budget office within the Office of Planning and Budgets will report to the new CFO once hired. Vice President for Finance Mark Haas will maintain his current reporting relationship to me as president, and Vice President for Planning and Budgets Dave Byelich will maintain his current dual reporting relationship to me and the provost,” Stanley said in Wednesday’s email. 

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