An Open Letter to the Board of Trustees

To the Michigan State University Board of Trustees:

We at the MSU chapter of the Roosevelt Institute, a progressive public policy organization, are increasingly alarmed at the state of management at this university. In the past month, we have seen the Larry Nassar scandal dominate conversations internationally, nationally, and on campus. We have seen the subsequent resignation of our president and athletic director. We have seen the administration of our university largely unresponsive to the interests of students and faculty as the crisis developed. The community responded adamantly and forcefully.

The current structure of the Board of Trustees — with power concentrated in the hands of eight publicly-elected officials — allowed for mismanagement of the crisis. The lack of faculty and student input in Board decisions became increasingly apparent and we are concerned that continuing in this direction will further undermine our trust in the university and silence the voice of the MSU community.

Moving forward, we believe ASMSU, COGS, and Faculty Senate should each appoint a representative to the Board of Trustees who holds full membership with voting rights. Other public universities, such as the University of California and the University of Illinois, have similar structures. This would be a marked improvement over the current system, which restricts students and faculty to a purely advisory role. The failure of the current arrangement became evident when the Steering Committee brought student and faculty concerns to the Board of Trustees, which were summarily ignored with the Board’s selection of John Engler as interim president.

The needs and perspectives of the faculty and student body, who live and work at Michigan State University, are not properly represented by the voices of trustees elected by the rest of the state of Michigan. Eight people detached from the student body cannot adequately serve it.

The Board’s stated purpose is to “promote the welfare of humanity through teaching, research and service.” In order to do this, the Board must represent the interests of those who teach, research, and serve. This requires a structural and cultural change that extends to the composition of the Board itself.


The Roosevelt Institute at Michigan State University