Campus rally calls for MSU board to resign

Jack Nissen
Special to The Detroit News

East Lansing — It wasn’t just students and victims of Larry Nassar calling for Michigan State University’s leaders to resign at a campus rally on Friday.

Michigan state Representative Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, speaks and demonstrators wave signs on Friday, April 20, 2018.

A state lawmaker also was among about 200 people in front of the Hannah Administration building demanding that MSU’s interim president, John Engler, and the entire Board of Trustees step down.

“Who is ready for some resignations?” state Rep. Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, asked the crowd. “I have already said ‘I will never support ... re-election any of these candidates. They have my automatic un-endorsement.”

The “Rally for Resignations” protest, organized by a group called Reclaim MSU, brought together students, victims and community members. Their mission: to force leadership change in the wake of the Nassar scandal.

“First and foremost, Michigan State University needs to take responsibility in their role for these assaults and they have maintained over and over and over that they are not going to do so,” said Morgan McCaul, a victim of Nassar, the former MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor convicted of sexually abusing scores of young women.

McCaul said trustees are unwilling to admit they have a problem, comparing their inaction to drug addiction.

“I don’t think we can make any progress with them until they acknowledge the problem,” she said.

MSU graduate and Nassar victim Melody van der Veen, 22, said: “We have begged for their compassion and empathy and have received the opposite.”

“I cannot emphasize enough to the Board of Trustees that you have no argument worth stating, and that your defense will fail and burn your already dreadful reputation,” she said.

Protesters wore teal shirts and hats to honor the victims and carried signs stating “Engler and BOT (Board of Trustees) out NOW!” and “MSU condones rape, Spartans do not.”

They also want the Board of Trustees restructured to include additional positions for faculty and student input, and more transparency in the search for MSU’s next president. Further, if two-thirds of the members of the Academic Congress oppose any MSU presidential candidate, that person should not be appointed, they say.

“The main ask of the protest is to resign, but before you do (the board), implement these changes,” said Natalie Rogers, the communications coordinator of Reclaim MSU.

“We know the board has the full power to just ignore all of this, so the main hope of today’s event is to keep building that momentum and keep reminding the board there are so many people that want them gone and so many people want change to happen.”

Reclaim MSU was established in early February after an explosive town hall meeting between several hundred community members and trustee Brian Mosallam resulted in dozens of people voicing their displeasure with the board. The intention of the group is to centralize the dialogue about sexual assault in hopes of using a collection of peoples’ voices to enact change.

“We’re not just fighting against Michigan State University, we’re fighting against the systems that are in place (in) our culture nationally,” Rogers said. “It’s bigger than just here.”

“This change is not going to come from them,” she said. “It’s going to come from us. We are sick and tired of the institution shutting our voices out.”