Two Democrats and two Republicans are vying for two seats on the board of the MSU Trustees. Today we speak with Republican candidates Mike Miller and Dave Dutch.
“Mike Miller, I’m a longtime East Lansing and Okemos resident, been here for 60 years, I’ve had a business here for the last 30 years that I grew from four people to 2,000.”
And. . .
“Dave Dutch here, born and raised in East Lansing. One of 10 kids. My Dad worked at the university for 52 years. I’m a combat veteran. I was a special operations officer in the Navy and I grew businesses for 22 years. I’ve come home. I’ve got three kids here and I would love to be a trustee because I just love this university and I think we’re going through a tough time.”
Both Miller and Dutch agree that Michigan State University did not handle the fallout from Larry Nassar well.
MILLER: This is the worst crisis in the history of Michigan State University and I think the general public feels that the board wasn’t sufficiently transparent and sufficiently open with them when they talked about what had happened here at the university. I think they are making some very good steps going forward, but the realities are, we need to reinstill trust in the board.
FOX: Mike Miller, this is almost a personal thing for you because your daughter was treated by Larry Nassar, is that correct?
MILLER: That’s a very difficult topic, I promised my daughter I wouldn’t discuss her medical history in public, but yes, it’s very personal. And some of those kids were her competitors and teammates. So as a result, I felt compelled to come forward and try to do everything I could to ensure that nothing like this ever happens at Michigan State again. And I will use every power that I have and every ounce of effort that I have to ensure that it does not.
FOX: Dave Dutch, how do you think the MSU Board has handled the fallout from Larry Nassar?
DUTCH: They were ill prepared and did not expect it and reacted to public outcry way too late. I think the Board of Trustees would tell you that right now.
FOX: There was a motion for fire Interim President John Engler in June. The Board of Trustees voted it down 6-2. How would you have voted if you were on the board?
DUTCH: I would have voted with them on that. I would have kept John Engler. Nine months ago this university, as Mike Miller said, hey we’re in the worst crisis we’ve ever had, lawsuits coming at us, legislature putting forward bills and things could be detrimental to the long term good of Michigan State. It was an ugly messy place. I don't think we had a lot of options, to be honest. John Engler, has he made some missteps? Has he done some poor communication? Absolutely. But we are now in a place where I think we can get a long-term president. He was never the long-term president. I don't think we were in that position nine months ago.
FOX: Mike Miller, would you have voted for or against John Engler back in June?
MILLER: There was never any plan or scheme for John to become the permanent president of Michigan State University. He has been an interim crisis manager. A lot of people take issue with some of the things that he said to our survivors and some of the things he actually wrote.
FOX: What are some of those things?
MILLER: He mentioned that he thought that one survivor might be conspiring with some legal counsel to bring in more complaints. That was probably a reaction to a very difficult litigation, but an untimely remark and certainly tone deaf. The realities are, I do think he’s managed the crisis for the university and right now MSU needs stability to attract the next president. And if we're gonna return to greatness, we need to have stability and we need to have the right leader and I think that a political knee jerk to get rid of John Engler would be a mistake.
FOX: Mike Miller you’ve noted that MSU’s tuition has more than tripled over the last 20 years. What are your ideas to make MSU more affordable for students?
MILLER: I think Dave and I are both what I’d call fiscal conservatives. People who want to do more with what we have. One of things that I would recommend is we use what business calls the 80/20 Rule. We’d look at all of the schools that we have, all the programs that we have and we’d say okay, what are the top 80% of those and what’s the bottom 20? If we got programs that aren’t working, we need to get those out and reduce costs if we can.
FOX: Dave Dutch, what are your thoughts on making Michigan State more affordable?
DUTCH: I think there’s a serious effort needed to look at the cost structure of our university. I’m not talking slash and burn, I’m talking synergies and doing things with technology and consolidation. Mike and I’ve run big companies. I’ve run billion dollar budgets. Michigan State is a $1.3 billion budget. This is a big organization and I think a Board of Trustees at Michigan State, you need some members of that board to have run multi-billion dollar companies and been on boards and reported to boards. So I’d really focus on the cost equation. In addition to that, I think we have so many assets here that we don’t do as good a job as other universities leveraging for incremental income or endowment. We have entrepreneurism, but it’s not coordinated across the university. We have extension programs throughout the state, [they] tend to focus a lot on agriculture, as they should, but they also need to tie in more to entrepreneurism and the foundation and developing alternate revenue streams for our university.
FOX: What is one new idea you’d like to bring to the table if you were elected MSU trustee?
DUTCH: We have this extension program which is unique to Michigan State and the state of Michigan where we have offices throughout the state. We have downtown in East Lansing the innovation center with the Hatch and the Spartan Foundation and Red Cedar Ventures, a lot of entrepreneurism and money to help fund faculty and staff in the technology world. I want to bring these things together. There’s a lot of silos in Michigan State so I would love to be part of the effort to bridge sort of this asset of the extension program we have out in the field, the money that big donors have given and leverage that with this unique agricultural history we have as a land grant university. And there’s ways to make money off of patents, intellectual property, new designs of equipment for farming, new crop technology and process we can, I think make a lot of money. So I personally would like to spearhead that if I get elected to the Board of Trustees.
FOX: Mike Miller, what’s your new idea that you want to bring to the table?
MILLER: You know I have a couple things that I think we ought to be thinking about. One is that we ought to be thinking about using technology in teaching. Through virtual reality and AI we could prepare classrooms with the right equipment that people could actually visualize an equation or visualize some physics that they can’t see with the naked eye. So I think that those kinds of things are certainly things that I would want to pursue. Not only that, I think that there’s an alternative for helping the tuition problems. One of those is to encourage K-12 to take more college credit classes from local community colleges and come into Michigan State with most of their basics completed. And then lastly, I applaud the people that come to Michigan State and struggle with very difficult financial times when they’re trying to go to school, they’re trying to live. One of the groups I applaud the most are single moms. They don’t have child care, they don’t have the right backup. And I would love to see Michigan State’s child development group develop a program where we can take care of kids for single moms who come to Michigan State and are trying to get a degree, trying to get ahead in life, and trying not to earn as much debt in child care costs as they accumulate in educational costs.
FOX: I’ve been speaking with Mike Miller and Dave Dutch Republican Candidates for MSU board of trustees. Thanks so much
MILLER/DUTCH: Thanks for having us