NEWS BRIEFS: Reclaim MSU’s Statement On the University’s Presidential Search

“We appreciate Dianne Byrum sharing her perspective on the presidential search. We would like to share our perspective as well.

We agree with Byrum that the presidential search is crucial to our future as a community and a university. We differ on its priorities. Byrum describes the top priorities as getting “the strongest pool of applicants we can get” and finding “the best person to lead Michigan State University.”

But a “strong” applicant on paper is no guarantee of a positive outcome. Look at the past year for evidence. Our priority is what trustee Kelly Tebay described as “turning the ship” – a comprehensive and sustained shift in culture. That shift must begin with the search process.

We believe, and have repeatedly stated, that a successful president will be one who engages with the university community openly to rebuild our trust – indeed, a person who insists on doing so. If the community can’t engage with the candidates before hiring, how will we know if they are capable of this?

In addition, while the search firm may have argued in favor of a confidential search, they are not the only experts in this area. Scholars have shown “there is no evidence that secret searches result in hiring candidates who will be more successful in leading the institution.” https://www.freep.com/…/how-not-choose-msus-next…/457017002/

We understand the desire to protect the presidential candidates. But this institution and this community need transparency. The Board’s top-down culture in which decisions are made behind closed doors is the problem. Until this changes, nothing will.

In Byrum’s recent letter to MSU students, she said that the Board is committed to walking the long road ahead “to change our culture in a real and sustainable way.” The Board stands at a crossroads now – return to the familiar path of secrecy that brought presidents McPherson, Simon, and Engler to the university, or take a new direction toward openness.

Byrum and the new Board: Work with the presidential finalists and the community to create opportunities for open engagement. We share the same need to work with a successful president to rebuild MSU. Show true leadership now!”

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