Saturday, October 23, 2021

In-person board meeting leads to passionate community comments

September 10, 2021
<p>MSU Alumnus David Martin addresses the board with concerns about racism on campus.</p>

MSU Alumnus David Martin addresses the board with concerns about racism on campus.

The first in-person Michigan State Board of Trustees meeting of the semester took place Friday morning at the Hannah Administration Building.

After holding meetings on Zoom last academic year, the MSU community had many opinions to share in the board room.

When the meeting opened up for public comments, MSU alumni and students spoke out about concerns for campus life.

MSU Alumnus David Martin shared his concerns about racism at the university. He addressed reports from the MSU Police Department about hate crimes on campus and compared the institution to "1984" by George Orwell.

"I hereby divorce myself from the new MSU that employs Orwelian tactics against its community and society, eroding American freedom and culture from which you have all gained great privilege and comfort," Martin said.

He then proceeded to tear apart his diploma and the MSU shirt he was wearing.

Theodore Golden expressed concern over the previous Larry Nassar investigation. He asked that the university release the withheld documents and remove associate of the general counsel Kristine Moore from her position. Golden previously wrote a letter to The State News editor about his cry for her resignation.

"Justice has to be delivered for you, the trustees, to be trusted in the future," Golden said. "Justice has to be delivered for the toxic culture that resulted in the Nassar scandal to truly change for the better."

Trustee member Renee Knake Jefferson echoed this sentiment in her comment at the end of the meeting. She recognized the five-year anniversary of the Indianapolis Star article that publicly exposed the Larry Nassar abuse scandal.

"This is a campus that is committed to looking deep within ourselves and asking what we can do better," Knake said.

She hopes the climate can improve and the board can see this improvement in the 2022 climate study.

"I just felt like it was really important to acknowledge the difficult work that's been done and to say that I am here and committed to equity and safety for everyone in our Spartan community, but especially the women on this campus," Knake said. "I believe very strongly that we have administrators, staff, faculty and board of trustees that joins me in that commitment."

Trustee member Pat O'Keefe shared another strong opinion with the board. He reminded the members of concerns he has received from students and faculty about the COVID-19 vaccine mandate in the last month. He also expressed his discomfort with the possible adverse conditions and the lack of choice for MSU students and staff.

"As the freedom of choice and whether a mandate for a COVID drug is appropriate, it appears 'my body, my choice' applies only to killing babies on college campuses," O'Keefe said.

He said he will be contacting state legislature to get involved with the issue.

"The lack of governance and oversight is exactly what got the university in trouble last time with Dr. Nassar," O'Keefe said. "I do believe the majority of the board understands the need for changes."

President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said he disagrees with O'Keefe's statements.

"I think (vaccines) are one of the most powerful and one of the few tools we have to protect people from disease and that's what vaccines do, these are not drugs to treat diseases, this is a vaccine that helps prevent disease," Stanley said.

Another concern brought up was the reinstatement of the swim and dive team. Four MSU students and alumni gathered to speak about their support for the program and asked for the board to consider bringing back the program.

Kinesiology student Madeline Reilly, involved in the Women's Swim and Dive Title IX lawsuit, spoke to Stanley about her frustrations.

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"Your negligence and disregard for the pending Title IX case against Michigan State University and my rights as a female was a slap in my face," Reilly said. "As far as I'm concerned, the pursuit to make women equal in any aspects of life is never a closed issue."

Stanley recognizes the frustration, but still considers the team to be a closed matter. He is unable to address the lawsuit.

"I think as far as I'm concerned at MSU we've closed this issue," Stanley said. "Hearing, today, again, I know how difficult it is for students who have been discomforted by this and how much they may be hurting in some cases, but we think it was the right decision for the athletics program."

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