Michigan State University Board of Trustees names Engler interim president amid student protest

Students protest as Board selects former governor as interim president

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Former Michigan governor John Engler has been appointed interim president of Michigan State University.

The MSU Board of Trustees announced Engler's appointment during a meeting Wednesday morning where students staged a protest. 

Last week the Board said Bill Beekman assumed the position after Lou Anna K. Simon's resignation. Simon resigned as the school deals with fallout from the Larry Nassar sexual abuse case. Athletic director Mark Hollis resigned Friday morning.  

Beekman will serve in the position until Feb. 5 when Engler takes over. 

Meanwhile, the board has invited an outside entity to investigate university policies and culture. 

Engler is a Michigan State alum who served as the state's 46th governor from 1991 to 2003.

Here is a statement from MSU faculty:

"We, the undersigned At-Large faculty members of the Michigan State University Steering Committee, declare the following:

"Our hearts have broken for the scores of courageous survivors who have come forward to share their stories of horrific sexual abuse at the hands of Larry Nassar, a member of the MSU faculty. We thank you for your critical role in bringing him to face the justice that he deserves. While Judge Aquilina may have signed his sentencing document, all of you helped draft it, word by word, with your brave testimony. MSU has failed you, in many direct and indirect ways, and we the faculty of the University extend our deepest and most sincere apologies. Moving forward in that spirit, we will work to our utmost to change the culture of Michigan State University so that this, and other such instances of harassment or abuse or institutional neglect and condescension, will never happen again. We will not rest until Michigan State University becomes the nationally recognized leader in the prevention of sexual harassment and sexual abuse at an institution of higher learning. We owe that to you.

"However, our initial efforts to do so have been thwarted by a myopic and entrenched administrative structure that has placed political expediency and institutional branding above the need to regain the trust of the greater MSU community and to promote healing of those who have suffered at the hands of sexual predators such as Larry Nassar.

"We were invited to a private meeting of the Board of Trustees on Monday January 29, 2018, ostensibly to provide faculty input in an open and transparent sharing session in the mutual interest of love for MSU. Five members from the Board were in attendance. At this meeting 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. We suggested that the Interim President have significant experience devising and implementing programs to mitigate sexual harassment and sexual abuse. We suggested that a strong effort be made to place a woman with extensive academic leadership experience in this position, because her lived experience would provide needed wisdom at this juncture. Furthermore, we suggested that a month-long or even semester-long process be undertaken to hire an Interim President, so that all members of the MSU community, from undergraduate students to graduate students to staff to faculty to deans, could provide input and guidance in a transparent fashion to the Board of Trustees.

"It appears that not only were none of our suggestions heeded by the Board of Trustees, we learned of their apparent decision to select Gov. Engler through public media. The Board of Trustees seems to have chosen to ignore major stakeholders of the MSU community in their rush to appoint an Interim President. They seem to have selected, without appropriate consultation from the MSU Community, an individual with no academic leadership experience as Interim President. We have issues with both the selection itself, and a selection process that used meetings with students, faculty, and Deans to give the appearance of consultation.

"Should the Board indeed appoint ex-Governor Engler we will sadly be forced to bring a motion to hold a vote of No Confidence in the Board of Trustees to Academic Congress via electronic ballot. If this motion for a vote passes, a vote of No Confidence in the Board of Trustees will be held at the next Faculty Senate meeting. If that vote of No Confidence passes, we will call on the entire Board of Trustees to resign immediately."

Michigan AG investigates MSU's handling of Nassar case

Over the weekend, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said he will lead his investigation into the way the university handled the Nassar case.

Schuette described the team he has assembled to lead the investigation, including a special prosecutor and the Michigan State Police, and said there will be a public report when the investigation is completed.

“We will meet with every victim," Schuette said.

The MSU Board of Trustees asked Schuette to investigate the events surrounding the wide-ranging sexual abuse case of the former doctor.

He said Saturday that he didn't need advice about how to handle the investigation from the board because of their conduct during the situation.

“This will be done right. Period," Schuette said. "No individual and no department at Michigan State University is off-limits."


About the Authors:

Jason is Local 4’s utility infielder. In addition to anchoring the morning newscast, he often reports on a variety of stories from the tragic, like the shootings at Michigan State, to the off-beat, like great gas station food.