MSU students, faculty push back against Engler appointment

Thursday, February 1, 2018 - 7:57pm

Michigan State University students interrupted an MSU Board of Trustees meeting Wednesday night, protesting the appointment of former Michigan Gov. John Engler as interim university president. Faculty liaisons to the board as well as the university's chapter of College Democrats called for a vote of no confidence in the board, the State News reported. The appointment follows the resignation of former University President Lou Anna Simon amid the sentencing of Larry Nassar, renowned physician for MSU and USA Gymnastics, for the sexual assault of more than 250 girls. The MSU Board of Trustees unanimously voted in the former governor Wednesday.

At the meeting, one student said the decision does not align with the values of the students at MSU. Another protested by sitting on the conference room table.

The vote has received widespread criticism for what people see as Engler’s weak stance on sexual assault. A report from Bridge Magazine, published by The Center for Michigan ––a thinktank that analyzes and informs the public on Michigan policy issues –– recounted Engler's role in a 1990s sexual assault case of female prison inmates in which he prohibited state prison officials from speaking to lawyers and United Nations investigators to discover the scope of the women’s claims. In 2009, the stated settled the lawsuit for $100 million on behalf of 500 women assaulted by prison guards.

In anticipation of Engler’s appointment Tuesday, MSU professor Rob DeLuca issued a statement on behalf of the faculty-comprised MSU Steering Committee, calling for a month- to semester-long process to appoint a new MSU president and strongly suggesting it be a woman with extensive academic experience. He claimed the Board of Trustees would be ignoring the wishes of the MSU community by appointing someone with no academic leadership experience.

“We expressed in no uncertain terms that appointing a former Governor with no academic leadership experience as interim president would not be the best way to heal the wounds of our community in this politically polarized climate,” the statement read. “The Board of Trustees seems to have chosen to ignore major stakeholders of the MSU community in their rush to appoint an interim president.” 

In light of the sentencing of Nassar, Engler assured members of the community he plans to improve MSU communication and transparency.

“I will move forward as if my own daughters were on this campus and will treat every student as I would my own daughters,” Engler said.

Dan Martel, president of MSU’s College Democrats, wrote a letter to the Board of Trustees on behalf of the chapter calling for a sit-in until they are heard.

“The appointment of former Gov. John Engler shows a clear dismissal of the concerns and desires of the student body and alumni,” the letter read. “Instead of instating a clear, transparent process for determining the interim president, the trustees instead chose to appoint Engler through over-the-weekend backroom deals. Instead of appointing a uniting figure ready to repair campus and take on the complex issue of sexual assault, the board instead chose to appoint a partisan figure that would only further divide the MSU community.”