Monday, October 3, 2022

Board of Trustees wraps up fall 2021 semester

December 17, 2021
<p>Julia Lower&#x27;s family comforts her after her testimony in front of the Board of Trustees at their meeting on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021. Lower confronted the board for the university&#x27;s lack of resources and protection for survivors. &quot;Mandatory reporters revealed to me that they make students aware of the consequences of reporting, knowing that the trauma of seeking justice is often worse than the RVSM case itself,&quot; she said. </p>

Julia Lower's family comforts her after her testimony in front of the Board of Trustees at their meeting on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021. Lower confronted the board for the university's lack of resources and protection for survivors. "Mandatory reporters revealed to me that they make students aware of the consequences of reporting, knowing that the trauma of seeking justice is often worse than the RVSM case itself," she said.

Photo by Chloe Trofatter | The State News

The Board of Trustees held its last meeting to wrap up the fall semester on Friday, Dec. 17. Members passionately discussed issues such as sexual misconduct policy and collective bargaining.

President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. began the meeting with his report. He shared updates on COVID-19, saying by the time the MSU Pavilion closed in June, they administered 96,500 doses of the vaccine, helping almost 50,000 students return to campus.

In terms of budget, he said financial aid increased due to the pandemic with MSU giving away $50 million. Faculty and academic staff will have two percent raises starting Jan. 1. This week, he announced $1,500 bonuses for faculty and staff, funded by the university's financial reserves.

Stanley also said MSU is working to restore compensation reductions and the full-benefit retirement was reinstated six months earlier than expected.

Faculty liaison Karen Kelly-Blake said decisions made outside of board meetings lack diversity of perspective.

"The bonuses are a cold comfort compared to the housing of retirement benefits beginning for support staff next month, and the thousands in lost salary and retirement benefits suffered by faculty and academic staff," Kelly-Blake said.

She encouraged partnership with the trustee members to improve diversity, equity and inclusion in decision-making.

"We must reconsider the way our institutional decisions are made," Kelly-Blake said. "Let us end the theater of these meetings and make them be the deliberative, decision-making forum they were meant to be."

Stanley said MSU is working to develop programs to support the community such as a caregiver program and increased services in the sexual assault healthcare program, where staff is available 24/7.

Multiple authorizations were passed during the meeting, such as a bond authorization and authorizations to plan facility and infrastructure upgrades.

The academic affairs committee discussed and voted on a resolution to "ensure the university's position of neutrality on any collective bargaining activities."

Collective bargaining is the ability for unionization and advocacy for workers' compensation and rights. This resolution tasks the university with neutrality, recognition and notification of agreements.

"What we are doing is not outside of the realm of what is done at other institutions of higher ed," Chair Dianne Byrum said.

Byrum clarified the method of organization within collective bargaining will change. Historically, if 30 percent of the employees in the bargaining unit signed a petition, an election could be held.

Now, there is a "card check" where people can sign a card or petition which counts as casting a vote, speeding up the process. It will take 50 percent plus one of the employees to vote to make a decision.

"You can argue it's a higher threshold but it's also a quicker process," Byrum said. "MERC (Michigan Employment Relations Commission) tends to really get bogged down in a lot of bureaucracy and it can take years."

After discussion and disagreement among trustee members, the resolution passed with a vote of 5 to 3, with trustee members Melanie Foster, Dan Kelly and Pat O'Keefe voting against it.

"These trustees have failed miserably and openly," O'Keefe said of the five voters in favor of the resolution.

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During the public participation, an MSU alumnus and student shared continued concerns about on-campus support for survivors of sexual assault.

Student and survivor Julia Lower told of her experience with the Office of Institutional Equity at MSU, saying throughout the investigation, there was mishandling of her case.

"The reality is that victims are not reporting and it's because of the incompetence of professionals, disregard for victims' safety and RVSM policies that MSU put into place after the Larry Nassar case in 2016," Lower said.

Trustee members, like Kelly Tebay, acknowledged the mishandling of the situation during their comments.

"I appreciate your courage that you showed this morning for coming here and talking to us," Tebay said. "We failed you. I'm sorry. No student should have to live in fear on our campus."

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