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MSU Board Of Trustees Elect New Leadership, Resolve To Establish New Healing Fund

Trustee Dianne Byrum, the newly elected chairperson of the Michigan State University Board of Trustees.
Honda Carter, WKAR
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Trustee Dianne Byrum, the newly elected chairperson of the Michigan State University Board of Trustees.

The Michigan State University Board of Trustees elected new leaders today in their first meeting of the year. Dianne Byrum was elected chairperson and Dan Kelly was elected vice chairperson.

The meeting marked a shift in power on the board of trustees following a sustained period of controversy over MSU’s handling of the Larry Nassar scandal.

Wednesday was the first meeting for two incoming Democrats elected in the 2018 midterms, Brianna Scott and Kelly Tebay.

It was also the first meeting for Nancy Schlichting, the former Henry Ford Health CEO, appointed by former Governor Rick Snyder to fill George Perles’ spot.

Previously, Byrum and trustee Brian Mosallam had formed an alliance, but lacked a substantial voting bloc to make amendments to board agendas or pass resolutions.

In months prior Byrum and Mosallam had called for Interim President John Engler to resign, and issued a statement opposing the closing of the Healing Assistance Fund; the 10 million dollar fund devoted to assisting survivors in covering their counseling and therapy fees.

However, with the arrival of the newest trustees—all of whom signed a petition calling for the university to reinstate the fund—Mosallam and Byrum had the votes.

Trustee Kelly voted for Byrum. His vote averted a potential deadlock between Byrum and Mosallam that would have resulted in previous vice chair Joel Ferguson acceding to the role of chair.

“Dan Kelly breaking the 4-4 tie because of the ramifications, is leadership quite frankly,” said Mosallam.

Mosallam was an early organizer opposing the closing of the fund, but he lost his bid for chair. He said he’s happy that the board voted to recommend a new fund.

“I also want to thank Nancy Schlichting and Kelly Tebay who share my vision for transformative reform. With that being said I look forward to working with Dianne, like I always have, we will continue to push forward with institutional reform and challenging the status quo.”

Byrum called for unity in the face of change saying, “We have a new board, we have a new year and we will be writing new pages in the history of Michigan State University.”

She added, consensus would be necessary to move forward.

“Understanding that that change will only occur with all of our participation. It isn’t about any individual member. It’s about the collective work of the board. That’s going to take a lot of focus, attention, and plain hard work. But, you have that commitment from this board,” said Byrum.

The board also voted to recommend that the administration establish a new fund to assist survivors of Larry Nassar’s abuse with counseling costs. The resolution passed unanimously after more than a month of protests following the funds’ December closure.

There are no dollar amounts attached to the new fund, but according to Byrum more details will likely be available at the February board meeting.

“The details have not been worked out. Everything is on the table right now.”

Byrum said getting the votes for the board to pass a resolution to establish a fund wasn’t difficult despite the board’s inaction at the December meeting.

“People believe that it was the moral thing to do. The difficulty is always going to be in the details, in the minutia. But, I am confident that the board will come together and that we will support establishing a new fund,” said Byrum.

Critics of the board are still demanding the board waive attorney client privilege for the Attorney General's  investigation into how MSU internally handled information about Nassar. And, an open presidential search.

Follow Abigail Censky on Twitter: @AbigailCensky

Abigail Censky is the Politics & Government reporter at WKAR. She started in December 2018.
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