MSU Trustee Renee Knake Jefferson announces reelection plans

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Michigan State University Trustee Renee Knake Jefferson announced this week that she will seek reelection in November.

Jefferson, a legal ethics professor, was appointed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in December 2019 to replace former Henry Ford Health System CEO Nancy Schlichting. 

Schlichting was appointed by Whitmer to replace former Trustee George Perles, a Democrat who stepped down in 2018 for health reasons. Schlichting was appointed to fill his term ending in January 2023 but resigned after 10 months, citing her frustration with the board's unwillingness to have an independent review of how MSU handled the Nassar scandal.

Michigan State University Trustee Renee Knake Jefferson announced this week that she will seek reelection.

"During the last year, though, it has become very clear to me that my commitment to have an independent review of the Nassar situation, and to waive privilege so the truth can come out, is not shared by the MSU Board Chair, legacy Board members, and some newer trustees," she said at the time.  

MSU Trustee Melanie Foster's seat will also be up for reelection. First elected in 2004 and again in 2014, Foster has not yet said whether she will seek her post again. 

"I’m running to continue my work as a champion of change and reform for student success,” said Jefferson, 48, said in a statement.

She cites many accomplishments during her tenure including a new policy to evaluate presidential performance, a code of ethics for trustees and replacement of executive-level administrators.

"The University is in a better place from these changes, but much work remains,” said Jefferson, who was a member of the MSU law faculty from 2006 to 2016, after practicing as an attorney for several years.

Jefferson is a law professor and the Joanne and Larry Doherty Chair in Legal Ethics at the University of Houston Law Center. She is also the director of Law Center Outcomes and Assessments. She splits her time between Houston and East Lansing, where she owns a home.

After some MSU trustees would not release thousands of documents to Attorney General Dana Nessel's office for an investigation into the Nassar scandal, Jefferson said she reviewed more than 10,000 documents "to ensure accountability."

The documents, however, were never released by MSU, citing attorney-client privilege as the reason. Attorney General Dana Nessel shut down the investigation last year after three years.

Knake has since said there's no information in the documents that's not already public.