Friday, September 30, 2022

Editorial: Board of Trustees candidate Rema Vassar can bring change to MSU

Photo courtesy of Rema Vassar.
Photo courtesy of Rema Vassar. —

The Nov. 3 general election determines Michigan’s electoral college votes for president, its pivotal U.S. Senate seat, its delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives, its state legislature and its state Supreme Court justices. 

Make a plan to vote.

Michigan State students — if you need more convincing — two seats for the university’s Board of Trustees are also on the ballot. 

You know, the people who set tuition rates and provide oversight for the administration.

We can’t let 2020 drown out MSU’s role in the largest sexual abuse scandal in sports history.

Larry Nassar is serving what is effectively a life sentence for sexually abusing more than 500 girls and young women while employed as an MSU physician and team doctor for USA Gymnastics. For many, teal flags and ribbons continue to hold more significance than pride in green and white.

Throughout the past few years, we watched the Board of Trustees support John Engler as university president, whose appointment was met with student outrage. We watched them fumble with the healing assistance fund.

Of the two incumbents, Brian Mosallam is seeking reelection, while Joel Ferguson opted to retire, endorsing Democratic candidate Rema Vassar in his leave. 

We heard heinous comments leave the mouths of various members, with little to no repercussions. Ferguson continuously defended ex-MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon, calling her a “fighter” and saying that “she’s not gonna get ran out of there by what somebody else did” in a Staudt on Sports interview January 2018. Simon resigned from her position later that week.

In the same interview, Ferguson downplayed the severity of Nassar’s abuse, and said “there’s so many more things going at the university than just this Nassar thing.”

It’s time we see some changes. 

The board failed survivors. It failed students. It failed everyone who has ever called themselves a Spartan. They lied, hid and held documents hostage, refusing to release over 6,000 documents that share the stories of Nassar’s survivors. 

This is why we endorse Vassar to fill one of the open spots. 

With a background in education, Vassar understands how to best serve students. Given that her daughter is an MSU student, she has reason to support the university and serve the larger Spartan community. 

Racking up endorsements from the United Auto Workers and Ferguson, Vassar received the party’s nomination Aug. 29. 

With a focus on students — all students, as opposed to her Republican counterpart Pat O’Keefe, who said on his website he “believes the voices of conservative students at MSU have been silenced for too long” — Vassar is the best one for the job.

We have some thoughts on her Democratic counterpart. 

Mosallam, do better. Release documents to the attorney general’s office so their investigation isn’t stonewalled. Then, maybe we’ll consider.

We know MSU holds a special place in your heart. From the football field to the fourth floor of the Hannah Administration Building, you have made this university a big part of who you are. But you had an eight-year term, in which the last few years circled and orbited around a cycle of terror and trauma, hurting survivors more. 

He might be one of the better options, and his track record isn’t as flawed as some of his colleagues, but the bare minimum isn’t enough. It never was, and it never will be.

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Saying you support survivors and apologizing isn’t enough to heal them from the trauma and pain they endured at the hands of someone working at this university. 

Your role on the board is to do what is best for the university, but the university is nothing without its students. 

We understand and agree: You’re not all bad. 

We appreciate you stepping in with Dianne Byrum and motioning to terminate John Engler in June 2018. We appreciate your apologies to survivors, though they are not ours to accept. 

But once again, doing the bare minimum is not enough. If your actions reflect those of a good board member, we need to raise the bar. 

Just a few weeks ago you spoke about how you were the only board member that wasn’t tone deaf about the Nassar situation — is that your only redeeming quality? 

If the bar to be a good trustee is where you’ve currently placed it, we have miles to go. 

We want more from our Board of Trustees. 

If you truly want to make MSU better, do it. Stop defending yourself. You had the opportunity to finish the business you so proudly claim you need to. Now is your chance for a redemption arc. We want to see it from you, so do it.

Your qualifications should stretch beyond just being the least bad of an overwhelmingly bad board. 

So for now, Vassar alone has our endorsement. We believe she can bring the change we want to see in the Board of Trustees.

The State News Editorial Board is composed of Editor-in-Chief Evan Jones, Managing Editor SaMya Overall, Campus Desk Editor Karly Graham, City Desk Editor Kaishi Chhabra, Culture Desk Editor Devin Anderson-Torrez, Sports Desk Editor Jayna Bardahl, Copy Chief Mark Ostermeyer, Audience Engagement Editor Sophia Kalakailo, Multimedia Manager Tessa Osborne, Photo Editor Alyte Katilius, Staff Rep. Wendy Guzman and Diversity and Inclusion Rep. Di’Amond Moore.

This editorial is part of our Oct. 13 print edition. View the full issue here.

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