Reclaim MSU takes aim at Board of Trustees

EAST LANSING, MI. (WILX) -- An activist group at Michigan State is calling for a change in leadership at the university before voters cast their ballots in the next election.

Reclaim MSU is asking the Democratic Party not to re-nominate two current Board of Trustee members.

Trustee Brian Mosallum and Joel Ferguson's terms are up at the end of this year and the positions will be on the November ballot.

Neither has said whether they will toss their hat in the ring for another term, however, the people News 10 talked to said it's time for some new names on the ballot.

"Once you fail a university that greatly there's no reason for people to trust you," said Maya Kavikondala, a sophomore at Michigan State.

She says she's fed up with the Board of Trustees and how they handled the sexual assault issues on campus.

"I think there are other people that would do a better job."

That's why Kavikondala says she's signing a petition by Reclaim MSU calling for two trustees, who are at the end of their term, to not be on the ballot again.

"Last year, both of the trustees who were up for reelection decided not to run. We thought that was the right decision, but this cycle we haven't heard yet whether the two trustees who are up for reelection this year have decided to run," said Anna Pegler-Gordon, James Madison College Associate Professor and member of activist group Reclaim MSU.

Reclaim MSU says that Ferguson and Mosallum are entangled with the university's poor handling of the Larry Nassar scandal.

"The MSU faculty, 84% of them voted no confidence in the Board of Trustees," said Pegler-Gordon. "Governor Whitmer called for all of the trustees to step down and now what we're seeing is people seem to have forgotten - but we haven't forgotten...Reclaim MSU hasn't forgotten."

The list of grievances with the group are:
- Supporting former university president Lou Anna K. Simon and offering her a $2.4 million payout
- Hiring John Engler as interim president
- Refusing to release 6,000 pages of privileged documents to the Michigan Attorney General
- Closing, then reopening the MSU Healing Fund for survivors of sexual abuse
- Poor handling and response to the abuse of Larry Nassar
- Not funding fiduciary responsibilities, leading to Moody’s downgrading MSU’s bond status.

"They supported John Engler when he shut it [MSU healing fund] down and it took them a really long time and a lot of pressure from survivors and groups like Reclaim MSU to reopen the healing fund," said Pegler-Gordon."

The group is focusing their attention on "legacy trustee" or the trustees who were in place during the sexual assault crisis on campus.

"In 2020 it will be trustee Melanie Foster and we will also let her know that we think it is the right thing for her to step down," said Pegler- Gordon.

Trustee Mosallum told News 10 that he is still exploring his options on running for re-election including talking with students, alumni and survivors.

In a statement, he wrote:

"I’ll make a decision as we get closer. It is really important to me that we reform the Board and university in a transparent fashion to help rebuild the public’s trust in our institution. I have put forth plans to do this, against the wishes of some of my colleagues; including expanding the open meetings act and adding faculty and student voice more directly to the Board, as well as conducting an independent review of the university’s handling of the Nassar case. I would like to see these through," said Mosallam.

Trustee Joel Ferguson and the Democratic Party have not responded.

The Democratic state endorsement convention is March 21 in Lansing.

All candidates seeking endorsement by the party have to gather signatures and file them by that date.

It's not clear whether the party will announce nominations for the Board of Trustees at that convention.

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