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MSU Black faculty, alumni groups seek interview with presidential finalist

November 20, 2023
<p>University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz. Photo courtesy of UNC Health.</p>

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz. Photo courtesy of UNC Health.

Michigan State University Black Alumni, or MSUBA, and the MSU Black Faculty, Staff and Administrators Association, or BFSAA, are requesting an opportunity for university stakeholders to interview the sole candidate for the MSU presidency.

Kevin Guskiewicz, current chancellor of University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, last said he’s "weighing" the decision to take the MSU job. Rema Vassar, chair of MSU’s Board of Trustees, declined to say how the board will be moving forward with the presidency now that one finalist remains.

MSUBA and BFSAA’s request joins a similar call from the faculty senate, and comes as concerns arise over Guskiewicz’s role in a number of race-related UNC controversies

Guskiewicz has been criticized for not intervening in UNC’s handling of a prominent Black journalist whose application for tenure was deadlocked by their board for months, according to reporting by NC Newsline.

He also faced backlash for claiming he had no involvement in a controversial settlement with the North Carolina chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans over a toppled Confederate monument.

"Given the concerns being raised publicly about the candidate, we are requesting an opportunity for stakeholders' groups to ask questions of this candidate, including MSUBA and BFSAA, and give feedback before the final selection and decision is made," MSUBA President La Verne Wilson wrote in an email to the Board of Trustees.

Stratton Lee III, president of BFSAA, said those events "are relevant to the necessity" of speaking with Guskiewicz. 

"It is important for any candidate (that) we are considering for presidency to meet and understand the constituency for which they will be working with and serving on behalf of," Lee told The State News.

Wilson said her organization is trying to avoid formulating an opinion based on "things (they’ve) read in the newspapers," which is why it’s important they get a chance to sit down with Guskiewicz.

"We like to go firsthand to try to get the information, and not just rely specifically on things we may have read," Wilson said.

The proposed interview would be open to all representatives of the MSU community, not just BFSAA and MSUBA.

"To have that dialogue, and open that dialogue, would be beneficial, I think, to the entire MSU community," Wilson said. "We want to give those who have questions and those who have concerns an opportunity to get some of those answered."

But, Guskiewicz has already refused faculty senate’s earlier request for a meeting.

​​"His schedule just didn't work, (the proposal) was kind of short notice," John Isaacson, the chair of Isaacson, Miller, the outside firm facilitating MSU's search, told The State News.

Isaacson said that he's talked through the proposed meeting with Guskiewicz, who said he "might do it, but it would be later."

Isaacson said Guskiewicz is committed to "engaging not just the faculty but every constituency" eventually, but likely not this week during ongoing deliberations over his candidacy.

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