Letter to the MSU campus community

April 27, 2018

To the MSU campus community:

Our university community shares the utmost concern for the welfare of all survivors of sexual abuse. That’s why I’m pleased to report that Michigan State returned this week to mediation to resolve the civil litigation stemming from the sexual assaults committed by former Olympic and MSU sports doctor Larry Nassar.

Two days of settlement talks with plaintiffs’ attorneys were held this week, and we have agreed to “an ongoing confidential mediation process.” The next sessions are scheduled for May 14 and 15.

The breadth of the expression of our community’s concern for the survivors is impressive. Students and victims’ advocates have made their feelings clear. So have many faculty, staff, and leaders. While we might differ on how best to express it, we agree on the need to treat the Nassar survivors fairly and with respect, and this situation with the gravity it deserves. That means it is also important that this campus be made as secure from sexual harassment and sexual assault as we can make it.

Those important efforts are well underway and are entirely independent of settlement talks. An expert faculty and staff committee is helping advise us of policy and procedure shortcomings, as I’ve written about previously. I urge you to follow our updates online on the Our Commitment website, or in downloadable form in the “Safer Campus” working document.

On a related subject, we were pleased to announce recently the appointment of two senior faculty members to work with and represent the administration and Athletic Department on academic, student welfare, and sports-related matters. University Distinguished Professor Bonnie Knutson of the School of Hospitality Business and Professor Michael Kaplowitz of the Department of Community Sustainability will serve as faculty athletic representatives. Until now, MSU has appointed one such representative, but the availability of two outstanding candidates, as well as the rising demands of the job, led me to add a second faculty representative. While this is a first for MSU, I learned other Big Ten schools have done this in the past. 

Last week, I talked about the settlement process and other issues with more than 200 deans, directors, chairs, and others at one of the university’s periodic leadership conversations. We met at the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, which I also had a chance to tour. Building FRIB is an impressive accomplishment, and we look forward to exciting discoveries and practical benefits from that knowledge after its completion in 2021.

Since my last update, the Board of Trustees has approved a student room and board rate increase of just 2.97 percent, the third-lowest rate of increase in 20 years. We also were pleased to recognize 80 students who achieved cumulative undergraduate grade point averages of 4.0, the largest group in MSU history to achieve that distinction. And we announced the establishment of two new endowed faculty positions, the Father Jake Foglio Chair of Spirituality in the College of Arts and Letters and the Gwen Norrell Professorship in Youth Sport and Student-Athlete Well-Being in the College of Education.

I joined some of our trustees and other campus leaders for a ribbon-cutting for our new Data Center, which, along with an information technology reorganization I announced, will help fund new capabilities to support our core missions, build upon existing IT strengths, and speed development of new applications. Change often is disruptive, but my goal is for the university to work through this reorganization with no college or department taking a step back, and that over time our security and service levels increase significantly.

I urge you to keep up with campus news online at MSU Today.

This week, graduating seniors have been taking good advantage of the seasonal weather to take photos with friends around campus, signaling the closing of an important chapter in their lives and the opening of a new one. I’ve had the privilege to meet many of our remarkable students in recent weeks and look forward to congratulating all of our Spartan graduates at next week’s undergraduate and graduate commencement ceremonies.


John Engler
Interim President