Graduate Employees Union Press Release on Appointment of Interim President Engler

Let this serve as a notice to Former Governor Engler: we are not your daughters.[1] We are scholars. We are teachers. We are activists. We are people who have been directly harmed by the institution you now represent, and we demand to be heard. You will not silence us.

MSU needs a positive change. John Engler is not that change. He will not help MSU heal. He will protect the institution, and he will do so to the detriment of survivors. This is not speculation, it’s history. Dissertations written at MSU catalog the damage Engler has done to Michigan’s public schools, but the more relevant example here comes from his work with state prison systems. Engler’s decision to close state mental health facilities led to the widespread incarceration of those in need of care. The state prison population tripled under Engler’s leadership.[2] Rape and sexual assault in the prisons—and retaliation against the prisoners who reported these assaults—also increased. There has been no justice for these survivors. In 1994, when the U.S. Justice Department launched an investigation of sexual assault in prisons, Governor John Engler banned investigators from the state’s women’s prisons. In 1998, Engler again refused investigators access to the prisons, this time preventing a United Nations delegation from visiting.[3] Is this the future the MSU trustees have decided they want for the university? Is this transparency? Is this moving forward?

Trustees Breslin and Lyons recognize that their time at MSU is finished. We will not miss them when they go. To the remaining trustees, we hope you hear the voices calling for your resignations. You have absolutely failed to lead. You have failed to listen. We have warned you in numerous meetings and at numerous protests that MSU has failed to protect students, faculty, and staff. You have ignored your constituents for too long. For the remainder of your time as trustees, we expect you to listen.

MSU’s at-large faculty members of the University Steering Committee are the leaders this campus deserves. The Graduate Employees Union applauds them for speaking out in defense of the rights of students, faculty, and staff. We encourage the MSU Faculty Senate to stand firm in their commitment to bring a motion of No Confidence in our trustees and our new interim president. Faculty know this university best, and their voices should matter. All of our voices should matter.

The presidential search process as it has been conducted thus far is a massive violation of the core principles of academic shared governance. The Board of Trustees has not only ignored the advice and suggestions of MSU community members, but has unilaterally selected an interim president with no academic leadership experience and a track record of negligence. Faculty, students, and staff all know that MSU desperately needs a leader who will prioritize building support systems for the thousands of survivors of sexual assault and harassment on campus. As governor, Engler gutted public mental health services and effectively criminalized those in need of care. Engler is the wrong direction for MSU, and any trustees who support him are the wrong leaders for our campus.

[1] On January 31, 2018, Engler claimed: “I will move forward as if my own daughters were on this campus and will treat every student as I would my own daughters.” http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2018/msu-trustees-name-former-michigan-governor-john-engler-interim-president/

[2] Prison Policy Initiative, https://www.prisonpolicy.org

[3] Human Rights Watch, “Nowhere to Hide: Retaliation Against Women in Michigan State Prisons” https://www.hrw.org/legacy/reports98/women/Mich.htm

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