Sept. 9, 2022: Remarks to the MSU Board of Trustees


I want to start by thanking those who spoke this morning.

RVSM Update
As I start my fourth year as president, I’m reminded that I came to MSU with a commitment to prioritize the health and safety of our community.

This morning, I’d like to pause for just a moment to outline our progress as we strive to improve our campus culture and prevention and education efforts related to violence and sexual misconduct.

By the time I arrived in August 2019, many very important steps had already been taken to address systemic and historical problem areas.

By working with the Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct Advisory Group, reviewing the data from the spring 2019 Know More Campus Survey and meeting directly with survivors, I was able to work with a number of individuals to map out additional changes and improvements.

In 2019, for example, I appointed two RVSM advisers, Professor Rebecca Campbell and now Deputy Chief Andrea Munford, to report directly to me to provide regular guidance and make strategic recommendations, and their efforts have proved invaluable.

In 2019 we — meaning the university — created the Center for Survivors Crisis Chat and staffed it with volunteers 12 hours a day/7 days a week. And, we added dozens of staff positions to offices across campus advancing our RVSM prevention work.

In 2020, we launched a first-of-its-kind program on a college campus: the Sexual Assault Health Care Program, providing free 24/7 first-response medical care to survivors, both from our campus and the community.

We established the Climate and Response unit within our prevention office to promote healing and culture change following incidents and/or investigations of sexual harassment or misconduct. And, we established a victim-centered, trauma-informed interview space for law enforcement to conduct interviews with survivors who wish to report sexual assault.  

2021 was another productive year with the launch of our institution-wide RVSM strategic plan, which includes a comprehensive set of initiatives for a prevention-focused and trauma-informed approach to RVSM. We also created the MSUPD Community Support Bureau, which consists of the Special Victim and Community Care Units. And we made it possible to revoke emeritus status and other honors and awards in cases of faculty misconduct. 

Finally, this year, we launched the Support More Initiative to provide guidance for how to respond to RVSM disclosures in a manner that is helpful to survivors — and to promote related campus resources and services. We completed two rounds of reports from Cozen O’Connor, an outside law firm with expertise in Title IX compliance, which stated that investigations by the Office of Institutional Equity are “fair, impartial and thorough.” And we updated the Discipline and Dismissal of Tenured Faculty for Cause Policy and expanded staff at MSU Safe Place.

In short, there’s been a unified commitment starting with the Board of Trustees and moving across all our campus, to achieving the highest standards of care and safety, to preventing misconduct and supporting those who experience RVSM issues in a trauma-informed manner. And, moving forward, we will remain steadfast in advancing this important work

This academic year, for example, we will carefully review 2022 Know More Campus Survey material, which will provide crucial information for continuing to positively transform the culture related to sexual misconduct at MSU. We will develop a new professional standards policy collaboratively between university leadership and academic governance to further foster a culture of respect and belonging.

This summer, with the leadership of our two RVSM advisers, we began work to change the organizational structure of our OCR office, bringing in an outside consultant to map and improve the process flow and launched the search for our new OCR leader while elevating the position to a vice president role. 

What is the result of all this work? Preliminary data from our most recent campus survey shows we had reductions in the percentage of women who reported they experienced some form of sexual misconduct, a highly encouraging outcome.

We are also seeing a recovery of trust in the institution. Separate research from Edelman shows significant increases in the number of alumni who highly trust the university, from 54% in 2020 to 67% in 2022, and a significant drop in the number who distrust the university, from 18% to 10%.

We know we still have much work to do, but I’m so grateful to the many staff, faculty and leaders who are working so hard to foster a safe and inclusive campus community for all. And, I encourage you all to visit MSU’s Our Commitment webpage to learn more about our efforts.

Start of semester
The health and safety of our community was on my mind as we started the fall semester and welcomed our largest-ever first-year class.

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting students during fall move-in and at activities like the international student ice cream social, the Migrant Student Services CAMP program reception and, of course, Sparticipation.

I posed for many pictures with students and their families and I learned about their path to MSU.

Having a welcoming campus is so important. And I want to thank everyone across the university community who volunteered to assist arriving students — and produced the Fall Welcome events that start the year on such a wonderful note.

That includes the Fall Convocation, where Provost Woodruff and others produced this inspirational induction of our newest Spartans.

Provost Woodruff, by the way, is calling in today because she’s in Cambridge, Mass., for induction into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. We’ll hear more later, but it’s a great honor for her and the university to be associated with that prestigious scholarly organization.

Records and rankings
As I mentioned earlier, we welcomed a record incoming class of about 9,800 first-year students, which is also among our most diverse. That comes behind a record 57,898 applications.

This year we’re also welcoming more international students and more than 1,400 transfer students. And we look forward to benefitting from the unique experiences they bring.

These numbers are based on paid deposits, and of course, we’ll be able to tally an official enrollment count after tuition refunds close on Sept. 23.

But in an era when many colleges and universities are struggling to maintain enrollments, these numbers speak to continued confidence in the quality and value of a Michigan State University degree.

And we’re only getting better and more competitive. Forbes last week mentioned MSU among universities surging in their rankings.

And earlier this summer, ShanghaiRanking ranked seven Michigan State academic disciplines in the top 25 in the world, with two in the top five: Education ranked No. 2 for the third consecutive year, and communication ranked No. 3 for the second straight year. 

Here's another signal we’re headed in the right direction: This summer, we closed out a record-setting year for fundraising, totaling more than $284 million in cash and gift commitments. 

Our Spartan community is investing in us like never before, with giving from alumni growing more than 26% from the previous year.

More than 170,000 individual gifts were made to MSU last year, and nearly 9,700 individuals contributed for the first time.

And with our strategic plan now guiding our efforts toward greater excellence and impact in the year 2030 and beyond, I believe we’re in a very good position to continue to support the success of Spartans and the world we live in.

Michigan’s state university
I often refer to Michigan State University as “Michigan’s state university” because nobody is more active in supporting citizens and communities in Michigan than Michigan State.

Whether it’s through the services of MSU Extension in every county, our 900-plus medical education clinical affiliate sites across the state or the countless service and research programs engaging Spartans with our communities, MSU is here for the people of Michigan and beyond. 

That service was acknowledged in this fiscal year’s state budget. In addition to appropriating operating funds to MSU, it included $53 million for much-needed upgrades to our Dairy Cattle Teaching & Research Center and our greenhouse facilities, both of which support crucial Michigan economic sectors.

Today’s agenda includes resolutions authorizing us to begin planning for upgrading these important facilities, and I want to thank the Legislature and Gov. Whitmer for making this happen. 

We saw many examples of MSU’s commitment to Michigan over the summer, including celebrating the 100th anniversary of WKAR. Our strong partnership with WKAR is so important for connecting people with powerful ideas that inspire positive change in our community.

We saw MSU’s commitment to the state again when we received a $10.5 million federal grant alongside the MERIT Network to bring high-speed broadband services to underserved homes and businesses in Michigan and when we joined a multi-state higher education network to address regional and national priorities for semiconductor and microelectronics research, education and workforce development. This program will be critical to the health of Michigan’s 21st-century technology and manufacturing economy, including the auto industry.

Speaking of the auto industry, we’ll be represented in Detroit next week at the AutoMobili-D program before the North American International Auto Show. We’ll join our University Research Corridor partners to showcase our technology programs, research and development and MSU’s connected mobility ecosystem.

We’re proud to lead the nation’s university innovation clusters in the number of mobility industry graduates we produce, keeping the state at the front of mobility innovation.

The MSU electric autonomous bus will also be part of the URC’s display. So, it’s fitting that today’s research presentation on battery technology for electrified transportation.

We also recently saw continued confidence in MSU’s ability to innovate for a better future with an over $10 million Energy Frontiers Research grant from the Department of Energy’s Office of Science.   

Alongside Argonne National Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, our new Center for Catalysis in Biomimetic Confinement will investigate novel means to produce useful compounds for energy and other applications in an environmentally sustainable way.

Finally, I want to mention how I saw MSU’s statewide engagement up close during my road trip last month to Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula.

Michigan State has been active in research and service in the U.P. for more than 120 years.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic limited my travel over the past couple of years, I was eager to visit, tour some of MSU’s facilities and meet Spartans and others north of the bridge.

I enjoyed tours of the AgBioResearch Forestry Innovation Center in Escanaba and the College of Human Medicine’s Marquette campus, as well as meeting U.P. Extension educators in our Negaunee office.

I’m proud of the scope, scale and impact of our activities in the U.P., and the visit underscored the importance we place on serving the entire state.  

Students at the heart of MSU
I want to conclude my remarks today by circling back to the great start to the year we’ve been having and the centrality of student success in all we do, which our strategic plan reinforces. 

Students are the heart of the university, and welcoming them back is a real highlight. I want to play a brief social media video we’ve been sharing with our Spartan community.

Welcome back, students! Everyone here and all who are listening, I encourage you to register to vote. Once you’re registered to vote, I encourage you to make a plan about how you’re going to vote, as well.

And so, with that, let’s turn to the rest of today’s agenda.