Feb. 14, 2018
“Here are a few things that I know to be true: 1) @michiganstateu is filled with people who care immensely about each other and the world around them. 2) #SpartansWill is real. 3) I work with some of the best, most talented people, and their integrity impresses me every day.”
Those were the wise, inspiring words that came across my Twitter feed from my good friend and colleague, Ellen, the other day. It had been an especially challenging day for all of us, yet her words gave me pause, lifted me up and provided hope in the dark.
These are the days we live in now. The ups and downs of navigating a new reality confuse me, exhaust me and energize me all at the same time. The weight of what has happened here is still very, very heavy. The pain of survivors will not be forgotten. Yet the determination to work together and find solutions to create needed change is palpable in the Spartan community like never before. Ellen is right – #SpartansWill is real and needed now more than ever. The resolve of Spartans is astonishing and we will not rest until we find solutions.
I’ve spent some time this week working on a tribute site for former MSU president Cecil Mackey who passed away Feb. 8. He served as president here from 1979 to 1985, long before I came to work here so I never met him. However, I did see him and his wife occasionally at campus events and always thought to myself, “What a cool couple, there’s almost an aura around them.”
The more I learned about him, the more I understood the “aura.” This Spartan served under tough economic times yet dug deep and figured out solutions that led to a time of growth that included establishing endowed chairs, increasing private funding and opening the Wharton Center for Performing Arts, the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory and other facilities. His legacy is an important part of MSU’s history.
But now we’re a new generation of Spartans and we have an obligation to leave our legacy. Not so much in buildings, but in rebuilding the trust and respect and momentum to create better tomorrows not just on campus, but everywhere. Spartans can shoulder the burden and step up as leaders, not just in research labs, classrooms, fields, stages, boardrooms and so many unexpected places around the world, but in ways that change attitudes, action and culture on college campuses everywhere.
Last week I talked about some important messages from deans across campus. But it’s certainly not just faculty committed to the issue. Staff and students are coming together to support, listen, speak and act. Staff like Mike Brand, the executive director of Wharton Center for Performing Arts whose letter is in the STAFF VOICE: A long road toward healing and change. Or like Scott Westerman, the executive director of the MSU Alumni Association, whose heartfelt thoughts are in the STAFF VOICE: Steadfast commitment and tenacious effort.
Students all over campus are thinking deeply about their university and how to make it better. They’re committed to supporting survivors, each other and finding ways to voice their concerns and take action. Liz Schondelmayer, a junior majoring in political science in the College of Social Science and media and information in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, has done things like help run a town hall meeting in her college to talk about the issue. Read her STUDENT VIEW: Continue to speak, continue to listen, to learn more about her thoughts about tough issues.
And still, while people are sorting through emotions, ideas, concerns and actions, those “best, most talented people” are still doing their day jobs as researchers, scientists, students and staff. They’re teaching machines to teach themselves, finding ways to champion diversity and inclusion, figuring out better ways to regulate dams, studying elusive elements, going to class, writing papers, keeping the university running and figuring out the legacy they wish to leave behind.
And they do it because it matters. What this generation of Spartans leaves for the next generation matters. And what we have, what makes us Spartans, is absolutely real. That will? For me, it’s just gotten stronger. Spartans Will.
Photo by Kurt Stepnitz