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Board Appoints Engler To MSU Interim President Amid Faculty And Student Protest

Feb 1, 2018

Former Michigan Governor John Engler
Credit Wikipedia Media Commons / wikipedia.org

Former Governor John Engler spent his first day as interim president of Michigan State University dealing with campus controversy over the appointment.


Engler was appointed by a unanimous vote of the Board of Trustees.  The decision comes a week after long-time president Lou Anna K. Simon stepped down.  Simon resigned as questions over MSU’s handling of sexual assault complaints against former university sports doctor Larry Nassar heated up.  Nassar has been sentenced to a maximum of 175 years in prison.  Now the school is under multiple investigations.

Board members voiced their support of Engler before the vote.  They said Engler will be a strong leader and will keep the focus on the victims.

But students and faculty were not convinced.

Physiology professor Laura McCabe said the faculty wants to help change the culture of MSU to help stop sexual assaults, “However our initial efforts have been thwarted by a myopic and entrenched administrative structure.”

McCabe said Engler has no academic experience and is too political a choice.  The MSU Faculty Senate will introduce a vote of no confidence in the Board of Trustees at their next meeting.  If it passes, they’ll call on the entire board to resign.  

Students also voiced similar frustrations against Engler’s appointment.  Dan Martel, president of the MSU Democrats, interrupted the board meeting to read a prepared statement.

“For the rest of my life, I will carry a diploma from Larry Nassar University, and it will be signed by somebody who is so conservative that they have been handpicked to chair the national education assessment board by Betsy DeVos,” he said.

But during a press conference after the Board of Trustees meeting, Engler said he is dedicated to helping change the culture surrounding sexual assault at MSU.  He said, “Mark my words, change is coming.”

Engler will lead the school while it conducts a national search for a permanent president.

“I am only here to help the university community address this crisis,” Engler said.  “And lay a positive foundation for a permanent new president.”

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—Cheyna Roth is a reporter for the Michigan Public Radio network.  Contact WEMU News at 734.487.3363 or email us at studio@wemu.org