One year ago Larry Nassar’s trial showcased the negligence and lack of accountability of MSU’s administration. After the trial, resignation of MSU President Louanna K. Simon, the appointment of former Michigan Governor John Engler as Interim President, numerous investigations, an announcement of a closed-presidential search, a Board of Trustees election, the closing of the Healing Assistance Fund, a Board resignation, and, finally now, President Engler’s resignation. Yet, the overturn of leadership, protests, and investigations have not made MSU a more accountable university, or a place where survivors are heard. Engler’s leaving doesn’t change that. A new president did not “unite” MSU and it is not “a new day at MSU”, much more is needed to heal our campus.
John Engler’s resignation, like President Simon’s, was a good change. MSU should not be lead by a president willing to bribe sexual assault victims, or someone that claims survivors of Nassar’s abuse are getting kickbacks and “enjoying the spotlight”, or a person that closed the Healing Assistance fund over concerns the money went to fraudsters. Engler throughout his presidency made it more difficult to speak out on campus and actively attempted to cover up rather than confront sexual assault at MSU. However, Engler’s resignation does not fix MSU.
Engler’s replacement, Satish Udpa the former vice president of administrative was cast by the Board as a leader connected to the MSU community who will be able to bring compassion to the Office of the President. This may be true and is an improvement in leadership. However, Upda is still an internal candidate unlikely to significantly change the situation at MSU because the problems at MSU are deeper than a single president. Accountability has not been enhanced at other levels of administration, sexual assault reporting policies have not improved, MSU’s former President Louanna K. Simon is still on trial, individuals complicit in covering up Nasser’s abuse are still employed by MSU, former MSU professors are publishing their stories of assault, and the culture of silence on campus persists.
Unfortunately, MSU has an administration willing to create an internal investigation run by university lawyers and working to undermine another active investigation to cover up its crimes. A new president doesn’t change that culture of negligence. Additionally, Interim President Upta is temporary. The president of the Board announced just days after the appointment of Upta that they are hopeful about the candidates of the closed presidential search; where again students and faculty will not get a voice beyond a few appointed representatives.
The election of Trustees Kelley Tebay and Brianna Scott is a hopeful sign that MSU is looking for change and the candidates so far have made insightful comments about the shared governance and improving transparency, and hopefully will continue to push forward. However, Scott and Tebay are only two members on the Board of Trustees. Despite their election, the air of secrecy and resistance to reform in the administration has not changed.
A new president and new Board members are not enough, MSU must implement real institutional change to keep the university accountable and transparent in the future. Roosevelt @ MSU and Reclaim MSU have pushed the Board of Trustees to accept a bylaws change that would create an open presidential search process and add student and faculty representation to the Board of Trustees. However, we also need better policies surrounding sexual assault and harassment. The survivors of Nassar deserve a functional Healing Assistance Fund. The resignation of Engler is not the solution to MSU’s problem. The MSU community deserves these types of lasting changes to prevent future scandals and start healing our campus, and we should accept nothing less than these real changes for our university.
If you’re interested in giving students and faculty a voice on campus and opening the presidential search sign our petition here or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org!