New MSU President appointed after Engler resignation

Thursday, January 17, 2019 - 2:38pm

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Amelia Cacchione/Daily

The Michigan State University Board of Trustees named Satish Udpa, the school’s executive vice president for administrative services, interim president on Thursday morning following the resignation of John Engler.

Board member Brian Mosallam said during the meeting he saw the resignation of Engler and appointment of Udpa as the start of a new era on campus, the Detroit Free Press reported Thursday morning.

"On this day, our survivors no longer have to go to bed thinking no one would listen to them," Mosallam said in the meeting. “Today, the healing can begin.”

The appointment comes after an 11-page resignation letter from Interim President John Engler released Wednesday night. Engler came under new criticism after the release of a statement to The Detroit News in which he commented about a healing fund. He said survivors of Larry Nassar, who was sentenced to 40-175 years in state prison for criminal sexual conduct charges in January 2018, were enjoying the spotlight created by the case.

In a letter sent to MSU staff and faculty in January 2018, Upda wrote MSU must work to address its mistakes and emphasized the importance of devoting time and resources to healing and creating a campus culture which provides a safe environment for all members of the community.

“The pain inflicted on young women and girls, some of whom are our students, indeed our children, will remain seared in our memories as long as we live,” Upda wrote. “MSU has been a beacon of hope for more than 160 years to many around the world. While we are ready to identify and face our mistakes, we cannot stop building on the mountain of good that we have been privileged to build. We cannot let this tragedy define us. Our collective will to be a force of good has to prevail.”

Engler also faced criticism in December over his decision to close a $10 million healing fund created to pay for mental health services for survivors of former MSU doctor Larry Nassar’s abuse. Board trustees voted the reopen the fund.

Engler’s appointment as interim president followed Lou Anna Simon’s resignation from the position in the wake of the Nassar scandal in January 2018. Engler’s resignation came after board chairwoman Dianne Byrum told him the board was holding a special meeting Thursday morning, during which the board planned to fire him.

In his letter, Engler highlighted changes he made on campus during his tenure as president. Under his leadership, the University developed 24-hour access to counseling and a new app for related services. The university's health colleges, clinical operations and student wellness programs were all restructed during Engler's time as president, and oversight of athletic trainers was transferred from doctors from coaches.

“The bottom line is that MSU is a dramatically better, stronger institution than it was one year ago,” the letter read. “It has been an honor to serve my beloved university.”

Upda held his vice president position at MSU since 2013 and served as dean of the engineering school for seven years before that.

As vice president for administrative services, Upda oversaw the university's human resources, IT and facilities departments, as well as the offices of planning and budgets, land management and the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, according to the Free Press.

MSU board member Kelly Tebay said during the meeting she hopes the new appointment and Engler’s resignation will move MSU forward.

“We are sorry it took so long. I really hope this is the first step in a long road to changing the culture of the institution,” Tebay said. “This is a day we will all remember when the ship turned around.”