In its first meeting of the 2020-21 academic year, the Michigan State University Board of Trustees approved several resolutions and MSU leadership saluted the resiliency of new and returning Spartans.
In his opening comments, President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D., highlighted the university’s preliminary fall semester enrollment projections, totaling 49,875 undergraduate, graduate and graduate/professional students starting or continuing their Spartan education. The university’s official enrollment count will be made Sept. 28.
Stanley also shared recent rankings that put MSU among the country’s best for affordability, graduation rates and alumni career earnings, all of which underscore the value of a Spartan education.
“These are undoubtedly challenging and uncertain times,” Stanley said. “But I am encouraged by the number of students who are continuing to face each challenge before them with perseverance and resolve.”
Participating in her first Board of Trustees meeting since becoming provost, Teresa K. Woodruff introduced information on the launch of the academic year.
"Our faculty have worked throughout the summer to create new learning modalities to enable student academic success," said Woodruff. "Throughout the semester, we will continue to support our faculty, their teaching, and their ability to continue the world-class scholarship that makes this a great research university."
Administration leadership changes
One of the first items on the Board’s agenda was a recommendation from the president to restructure parts of the university’s leadership team.
Stanley’s recommendation to the Board included appointing Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer Melissa Woo as executive vice president for administration — a role that has gone unfilled since October 2019. With this appointment, Human Resources, Infrastructure Planning and Facilities and Land Management departments will report to Woo. She also will continue to serve as CIO in the spirit of operating within a constrained resource environment.
Additionally, the president’s recommendation included the establishment of a new position within his leadership team — senior vice president and chief financial officer. With the Board’s approval, Stanley will begin a national search for this new executive. The position will be responsible for developing a comprehensive, long-range financial plan for the university, as well as managing the university’s overall financial progress. The Board also approved the promotion of Vice President for Auxiliary Enterprises Vennie Gore to senior vice president to reflect his level of responsibility and impact.
Building name change
The Board also today approved the removal of former Trustee Stephen Nisbet’s name from a university building just south of campus, following the discovery of his ties to the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s.
“I want to be clear: This decision is not about whether Mr. Nisbet contributed greatly to the state, our university or the educational attainment of many, nor do we believe that his history within our state should be erased or discounted,” Stanley said. “It is, in part, through continued examination of history through contemporary lenses that we learn and grow as a society. We take membership in the KKK and the hateful actions associated with that group very seriously.
“With our action today, we are saying that his life and contributions are better illuminated through study and informed debate, and not on a campus building.”
This vote follows a recommendation to the Board from Stanley, after allegations of Nisbet’s ties to the KKK were brought to his attention in July. He promptly initiated an investigation into the claims and the investigation found evidence to support them, including a signed membership card and a book detailing Nisbet’s role in the klan. Stanley’s recommendation was reviewed and endorsed by the University-Wide Naming Committee prior to being presented to the Board.
During the meeting, trustees also heard a presentation from Kathleen Fitzpatrick, director of digital humanities and professor of English, about her research on the future of digital scholarly communication. She shared her collaboration with MSU’s College of Arts and Letters to create the first digital commons space designed to support an institution of higher education — creating a network to share knowledge and connect scholars worldwide.
Other Board activity included:
- Establishing the RCS Enrichment Fund, an endowment to support the Department of Romance and Classical Studies
- Establishing the Jamie Daniels Memorial Scholarship to support MSU students in recovery from a substance abuse disorder
- Approving a construction and completion assurance agreement for the STEM Teaching and Learning Facility
The Board's next regularly scheduled meeting will be Oct. 30.