Michigan State University welcomed its new chief executive, Dr. Samuel Stanley Jr., last week. He’ll be the newest in a long line of leaders who’ve helped to elevate MSU from its agricultural roots as one of the nation’s first land-grant universities into one of the world’s top research institutions.
It’s a big job.
Many will – and undoubtedly have already – pointed out the challenges of starting amidst the fallout of Larry Nassar and weaknesses exposed in MSU’s handling of sexual assault. Stanley will be called upon to help Michigan State continue to navigate the process of moving forward, even though these failures cannot (nor should they) ever be forgotten.
It will take exceptional balance and poise to accomplish this; to enhance ongoing efforts at culture change, continue learning from the past and drive change into the future.
The Lansing State Journal’s editorial board calls on Stanley to:
• Be transparent. The culture of secrecy that exists at MSU must be eradicated at every level, beginning with its top executive. Open lines of communication must be created and maintained with all stakeholders, which includes timely access to public records and swift responses to FOIA requests – both of which have languished under recent leadership.
• Leverage MSU’s assets. Michigan State has a strong and proud Spartan community, both here in the region and across the globe. Various academic programs rank in the top 10 worldwide, with several sitting proudly at No. 1 – such as supply chain management, nuclear physics and graduate-level teacher education programs. It’s important to capitalize on these assets and strengthen the connections that will rebuild lost pride in the MSU name.
• Build his team. To truly change culture is nearly impossible without changing the people. Stanley should seize the opportunity to assess the current MSU staff and make appointments to challenge the system. This could and should include close examination of appointments interim president John Engler made, as well as holdovers from the Lou Anna Simon era.
• Restore community trust. The on-campus community, as well as stakeholders across the globe, feel disconnected. Stanley and his team must restore faith and re-engage various audiences – including faculty, staff, alumni, donors and partners. He must also re-establish accountability to the public, as well as better ensure the safety and well-being of students to provide parents some peace of mind.
Stanley will be responsible for a vital component of our community, where tradition and innovation combine to propel us all forward together. We look forward to seeing what his time here will accomplish.
LANSING STATE JOURNAL (AP)