I was twice elected by my peers at Michigan State University to serve as a student representative on the MSU Board of Trustees. There, as an optimistic and mildly naive 21-year old, I worked closely with MSU Trustees, fellow student representatives, core constituency and activist groups, faculty, staff and administrators to lobby board members to minimize tuition increases, protect $90,000,000 / year in scholarship funding, initiate the process for adding gender identity to the all MSU All University Anti Discrimination Policy, lobby for more university funding and see through the permanent University-wide recognition of the Martin Luther King Jr Holiday. And I learned what the board can and cannot do.
“These MSU Trustees [circa 2001-02] were an appropriate check and balance, and worked tirelessly to represent the needs, desires and aspirations of Michigan’s citizens…”
The MSU trustees serving on the board during my 2 consecutive terms (circa 2001-2003) were committed and active trustees. They actively scoured budgets, set tuition rates, consolidated redundant programs, terminated legacy programs, reviewed endowment investments, raised funds for core college programs, personally endowed core college programs, supported the administration when they believed the administration was right and challenged the administration when they believed the administration was wrong. These trustees were an appropriate check and balance, and worked tirelessly to represent the needs, desires and aspirations of Michigan’s citizens.
What an Active MSU Board of Trustees Can Do
MSU trustees have the power to set long term strategy and support that strategy via the budgeting process with allocations of funds and resources. They have the power to dig deep into university challenges and work with administrators to propose solutions. They have the power to not only hire and fire university presidents, but also to identify key performance metrics and track progress against those metrics. And they have the power to question, challenge and discipline.
Simply stated: the MSU Board of Trustees can set tuition rates, increase scholarship funding, allocate funding to programs that support key university priorities, cut funding from programs that no longer deliver value, set university priorities and influence university culture.
What an Active MSU Board of Trustees Cannot Do
“An active board cannot be complacent, indifferent or reactionary.”
An active board cannot take a president’s word for gold. An active board cannot place full trust in an administration or legacy systems and processes. An active board cannot be complacent, indifferent or reactionary. And an active board cannot make excuses, claiming that core university functions are outside of its control. The days for Calvin Coolidge style leadership are done.
Simply stated: the MSU Board of Trustees cannot afford to be passive, deferential leaders.
What I Can Do
“Additionally, it has also always been my goal to challenge the status quo, which means its game over for crappy politics in Michigan.”
I can be clear about the priorities I will advance as a MSU Trustee. I can articulate what needs to be done now and map what needs to be done through 2026 to ensure MSU regains its status as one of the world’s great public universities. I can work to ensure all MSU Board of Trustee meetings are conducted on open, transparent manners. I can use various open and transparent communications tactics to share those priorities with key constituencies, solicit feedback on those priorities and continue to refine the approach that I prescribe to restore integrity and pursue excellence at Michigan State University.
Additionally, it has also always been my goal to challenge the status quo, which means its game over for crappy politics in Michigan. I have become increasingly sick of our state turning a blind eye to education, our environment, our poor roads and good policy. And I have become increasingly sick of the chauvinistic maneuvers of the governing class, which directly resulted in the current sexual assault and violence crisis at Michigan State.
It is my hope that this campaign gives a larger voice to good and open decision making, responsible spending, affordable tuition and responsible tax rates. And there is no better place to demonstrate and advocate for these priorities than at a university in crisis. What can be accomplished at MSU can be a model for our townships, cities, counties, state and elsewhere.