Our Observations Concerning Michigan State University’s Climate
We the undersigned Faculty are horrified by Nassar’s crimes and compelled by the growing sense that Michigan State University (MSU) officials have remained silent in the face of sexual violence against women on campus. Our hearts go out to the survivors, those courageous young women who have stood up in court, given statements and exposed, not only Nassar, but also the failures of the University to respond to their reports of abuse.
There are certainly many more survivors of abuse on campus whose voices, however, have not been heard or whose reports have been disregarded. The Nassar scandal has revealed that MSU administrative practices have tolerated and even been complicit with multiple forms of abuse, all the while claiming to put student interests first.
It is long past time to address the breadth and depth of our institutional dysfunction. Merely removing the abusers and replacing those who are ultimately responsible for institutional failures is not a satisfactory response. The entire culture of the university must be fundamentally reordered and remade. In this spirit, we present this list of demands that will help begin the process of addressing the past crimes and administrative failures and moving MSU towards a future in which sexual violence will not be tolerated on campus.
Regarding Sexual Abuse
- All new Board of Trustees members must have demonstrable deep familiarity with issues surrounding sexual assault and rape culture and other forms of abuse that are common inside a large institution.
- The next MSU president must have demonstrable deep familiarity with issues surrounding sexual assault and rape culture and other forms of abuse that are common inside a large institution.
- There must be transparency about steps taken to address sexual assault on the MSU campus.
- There must be transparency about steps taken to make the MSU administration accountable for failure to respond adequately to sexual assault.
- All people directly involved in covering up these sexual assaults must be immediately suspended.
- We must create a dedicated Sexual Assault Center with counselors and budget for advocacy and activities, and increase the number of sexual assault counselors after a series of exit interviews with those counselors who have left in protest.
Regarding Providing a Forum for Discussion of this Crisis and Reestablishing Trust between Members of the MSU Community
- We should cancel all classes and dedicate an entire day to campus discussion.
- All coaches must face the MSU faculty and answer questions in an open meeting.
- There must be a Town Hall meeting for students with the interim President, his advisors, the Provost and the entire Board of Trustees.
- There must be a Town Hall meeting for faculty with the interim President, his advisors, the Provost and the entire Board of Trustees.
Regarding Governance and Reorganization
- After the current Board of Trustees meets with the students and faculty, we expect they will resign or be impeached.
- MSU’s Faculty Governance structure is an aberration. Our Faculty Governance must mirror the autonomy given to faculty elsewhere throughout this nation. For some background and suggestions, we refer you to the Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on Faculty Voice dated April 22, 2005 which was never seriously implemented.
- We wish to know the criteria used by the Board of Trustees to select Acting and Interim Presidents.
- We wish to have a list of those in academic HR who knew about the Nassar and other sexual assaults and when they became aware of these incidents.
- The new Board of Trustees must include in its list of primary responsibilities regaining the trust of the Faculty.
- New members of the Board of Trustees must have demonstrated interest in the academic mission of the university, not athletics, and must be appointed for a limited transition period until elections can be held.
- The process of selecting a new President must be totally transparent. We remind everyone that Lou Anna Simon was chosen without a national search and hired as the result of a closed door Board of Trustees meeting.
- We wish to know the names of the law firms and insurance firms that have been retained.
Regarding Other forms of Institutionalized Abuse
- We must examine the structures of abuse which have been normalized throughout this University and employ only those who are both willing to and capable of resisting the furtherance of such abuse. The mantra which appears in so many of MSU’s official documents regarding racism, sexism, classism, ableism, normative gender roles, etc. must not be a meaningless chant.
- We must study the enormous body of scholarly work which enlightens us to how abuse has been institutionalized here.
Regarding Financial and Other Costs to the University
- We must be given a written commitment that the faculty will not incur the cost of administrative failure (possibly over 1 billion dollars) in the Nassar case.
- We remind everyone that as the majority of students are residents of Michigan, any increase in their tuition is a tax on Michigan residents.