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MSU deans, provosts rebuke Trustee’s president search ideas

September 29, 2023
 Board of Trustees Meeting held at the Hannah Administration Building on Apr. 21, 2023.
Board of Trustees Meeting held at the Hannah Administration Building on Apr. 21, 2023.

Michigan State University’s deans and vice-provosts sent a letter to the university’s board Thursday asking that they only consider candidates for the presidency that are approved by the representative search committee.

Their demand comes after comments by Dennis Denno, a trustee and chair of the search committee, who told The State News earlier this month that the board will “very, very strongly take into consideration the names the search committee provides to us.” But, that the board could ultimately choose someone who doesn’t get the approval of the committee.

The letter — signed by 17 deans, seven vice provosts, one associate dean and the director of MSU’s FRIB laboratory — called for a “public and explicit reaffirmation” from the Board of Trustees of their commitment to a presidential search that follows the “best practices for executive searches in higher education.”

Additionally, they hope the board is “answering the calls for conducting a presidential search that builds and considers a diverse, strong pool of candidates” and “prioritizes these processes and outcomes over any pre-determined deadline.”

The letter affirmed a faculty senate resolution which also responded to Denno’s comment.

That resolution asked that the board only consider candidates endorsed by the search committee, and that the chosen candidate be “a preeminent scholar,” responding to other comments made by Denno where he said the committee is giving serious consideration to non-academic candidates “from the business world” and “people who have a very strong military background.”

The faculty senate’s role is advisory. Resolutions like this one are non-binding, but are intended to democratically voice opinions of the faculty to those like the board and president who can enact the policies they propose. 

Denno has not returned a request for comment from The State News asking whether he would adopt the faculty’s recommendations. 

Interim President Teresa Woodruff — who is not seeking the permanent post — also pushed back on Denno's ideas.

In an interview with The State News Thursday, she said the next president should be "a great academic who understands student pursuits."

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