Letter to the MSU campus community

To the MSU campus community:

This week I appointed Marilyn Tarrant, who has been the director of our Office of Internal Audit, to be associate vice president in charge of the newly organized Office of Audit, Risk, and Compliance. The new office brings together MSU's oversight of ethics, risk, and compliance with our internal audit functions into one office.

Marilyn will report directly to the Board of Trustees and to the president. Such joint audit and compliance structures are used at other universities including Duke, Harvard, Princeton, and Stanford. The consolidated office eliminates overlaps and establishes strong accountability. We will have a strong framework for identifying, prioritizing, and managing risk, clarity regarding compliance responsibilities, and will retain robust internal audit functions. The office is also charged with revising the university code of ethics, completing work on the MSU policy library, and taking any actions necessary to assure we are meeting the high expectations for ethical behavior and acting always with integrity.

The board sent a strong message last week to Michigan policymakers about the compelling need for adequate state support for its public universities with the submission of our 2019-20 state appropriation request. The budget request calls on legislators to support additional funding for universities that freeze undergraduate tuition. MSU trustees acted to do just that in a historic two-year university budget approved at their June meeting. Currently, public universities that raise tuition more than 3 percent are penalized with lower annual appropriations. It seems only fair that if you hold the line on tuition, there should be recognition by policymakers.

Another reason for considering this request: Michigan ranks 40th in maintenance of its higher education appropriations over the last decade! Michigan is lagging the national median by 16 percentage points and, in fact, higher education funding today is $200 million below where it was when I left the governor's office in 2003.

Trustees also approved the full and complete integration of the MSU College of Law into the university. For several years, the former Detroit College of Law has been affiliated with MSU and moving closer to full integration. The trustees' action will create numerous, mutually beneficial opportunities for collaboration between the law school and MSU's other academic programs while enhancing the recruitment of students, simplifying administrative operations, and increasing financial prospects for the school in the coming years. Since the initial affiliation with MSU, the law school has gone from unranked to nationally ranked.

The board also confirmed Philip Strong, associate dean for students and instruction in the Lyman Briggs College, on an interim basis to the new position of dean of students and assistant provost for academic standards and student conduct. The new position will focus on programs and processes that promote safety, academic integrity, civility and respect, and conflict resolution.

Michigan State recently celebrated the approaching conclusion of our Empower Extraordinary capital campaign, which officially ends December 31, 2018. With a goal of raising $1.5 billion, thanks to the generosity of our donors, we have raised $1.75 billion so far.

The campaign exceeded other goals as well, which included support for 100 new endowed faculty positions and 3,000 new scholarships. I'm proud to report that we have 105 new endowed faculty positions funded so far and approximately 3,500 new scholarships. Together they will improve access to an MSU education for many students, and go far to assist in the recruitment and retention of more world-class faculty members.

Two leading donors were recognized by the board last week by officially naming the Billman Music Pavilion at the College of Music and the Edward J. Minskoff Pavilion at the Broad College of Business.

The contributions and participation in the campaign of our faculty, staff, and retirees have been especially gratifying. Employees and retirees contributed $111.9 million to the campaign, or 6.4 percent of the total. This level of employee giving puts us first in the Big Ten, and No. 3 among our 62 Association of American Universities peers. It's an extraordinary level of participation and signifies the deep devotion of our people to this university. Thanks also go to departing Vice President of University Advancement Bob Groves for his vision and leadership of the seven-year campaign, and to the entire UA team.

Donors can rest assured of the excellent stewardship of their contributions to Michigan State. The value of our endowment increased to $2.9 billion in the last fiscal year bolstered by a one-year return on investments of 11.1 percent. That is substantially higher than the median 8.3 percent return last year for U.S. colleges and universities. MSU uses income from these investments to support the university's general fund, as well as to fund designated scholarships and endowed professorships.

A long-running point of pride for Spartans is our MSU Center for Service-Learning and Civic Engagement. It is the oldest continuously operating service-learning center in the nation, this year celebrating its 50th anniversary. The center offers high-quality service-learning and civic engagement opportunities that connect faculty and students with community partners. Last year the center recorded 32,241 student community engaged learning or community service registrations. A new mobile app, "MSU Civic Life," allows students and employees to input their volunteer activities. Students who recorded 100 or more volunteer hours by today qualify for special presidential recognition, the Spartan Volunteer Service Award.

Michigan State took another step recently toward fulfilling its commitment to expand student health and wellness services by opening a satellite Counseling and Psychiatric Services, or CAPS, location at the MSU Union. The second location will initially house six mental health providers—three psychologists, two counselors, and a psychiatrist. The goal is to locate up to 10 providers at the Union. CAPS has added seven new providers to its staff since June as we seek to reduce wait times and meet the significantly increased caseload from rising demand for services.

As we work to promote a zero-tolerance culture for relationship violence and sexual misconduct, this year there is a firm university mandate for first- and second-year students to attend their required prevention or bystander network programs. Students will be unable to access their grade reports until they complete these in-person trainings, until new workshops are held in spring semester.

The process leading up to selection of a new university president continues following a lengthy series of input sessions held around campus, plus search committee meetings with a number of campus groups and units. The search committee selected Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates, a woman- and minority-owned firm specializing in higher education executive searches, to lead the search for MSU's 21st president. I am encouraging the committee to work diligently and complete their work as soon as possible. It does appear there is considerable interest in the opening, so I expect the field of candidates to be excellent.

We recently announced the retirement next April of MSU Police Chief Jim Dunlap after 50 years of dedicated service. He will remain as chief until the end of 2018, then will serve in an advisory capacity to assist the department during the transition to a new chief. Throughout his career, he has been a forward-thinking and innovative law enforcement executive, most recently creating a new unit, the Center for Trauma-Informed Investigative Excellence. That unit is focused on sharing best practices in trauma-informed, victim-centered investigations of relationship violence and sexual misconduct reports.

Michigan State has long been known for its presence in Africa, and a pending event of note is part of our ongoing Year of Global Africa. Nontombi Naomi Tutu, the daughter of South African anti-apartheid activist and 2009 honorary MSU degree recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu, speaks about her life as an activist and champion for the dignity of all at the Wharton Center November 5. Another special event comes in January, when human rights activist and former South Africa Constitutional Court Judge Albert "Albie" Sachs visits. He will teach a special short course for graduate, honors, and law students entitled "From Jailbird to Justice: Reflections on Law, Oppression, and Emancipation." Judge Sachs was the recipient of an MSU honorary degree just last year and was so impressed during his visit that he was willing to return and teach at MSU. We are honored to host him.

Go Green!


John Engler
Interim President