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Critics Upset With MSU Keeping Presidential Search Private

Two separate photos edited together of Mike Balow standing outside next to the MSU campus Sparty statue and Travis Menge at the Lansing Center for the GOP nominating convention.
Travis Menge and Mike Balow
Mike Balow (left) and Travis Menge (right) are the state Republican party nominees to serve on the MSU Board of Trustees.

Do not expect town halls or open interviews with the candidates for Michigan State University's next president. A memo issued Wednesday said the process will be kept private. At least one campus group urging transparency after the Larry Nassar scandal criticized that decision.

In a campus-wide email on Wednesday, presidential search co-chairs and MSU trustees Dianne Byrum and Melanie Foster said the selection of the next MSU president will be confidential going forward.

Here is an excerpt from the email:

The board and the search committee also have had extensive discussions about whether the search should be open or confidential. The community input sessions also advocated for the search to attract the strongest possible pool of candidates for the president of MSU. Our consultant, Dr. Teresa Sullivan, and our search firm, Storbeck|Pimentel, both have advised that the majority of presidential searches at research-intensive universities during the past three years have been confidential, as most highly qualified candidates are not willing to be recruited for an open search. Additionally, MSU is competing for highly qualified presidential candidates at the same time as several other universities around the country, most of which are conducting confidential searches. In order to draw the strongest pool of candidates, the search for the next MSU president will be confidential.

Dr. Teresa Sullivan is a Spartan alumnus and former president of the University of Virginia. In September, she talked with WKAR about being an advisor in the search process

The announcement of the confidential search earned an immediate rebuke from ReclaimMSU. The organization of students and faculty was formed in the wake of the Larry Nassar investigation. Nassar was a campus doctor who sexually assaulted women and minors in his care when he supposed to be treating them for injuries. The group has pushed for more transparency in processes at MSU.

Tweet responding to MSU's announcement of a confidential presidential search process.

In response to the announcement, the group criticized the decision to have a private search. 

"The purpose of a presidential search is not to find the most-credentialed candidate but to find the candidate who will be most successful as a leader. Success requires legitimacy and trust - and our current Board has earned neither," said ReclaimMSU's tweet.

The presidential search committee held 22 input sessions around campus. Click here to see notes from those sessions.

MSU trustees Byrum, Foster, Joel Ferguson and Dan Kelly are part of the 19-member search committee. It also includes the deans of MSU's colleges.

Editor's note: Dr. Prabu David, dean of MSU's College of Communications Arts & Sciences is on the MSU presidential search committee. WKAR public media is part of the college. The MSU Board of Trustees holds the license to WKAR radio and television.

Karel Vega served as radio news managing editor at WKAR from 2020 to 2023.
Amanda Barberena helps write stories for online and books interviews for newscasts. The Michigan State University student started with WKAR in the Fall of 2017 during her freshman year.
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