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Comments from the Floor

Faculty Senate Chair Jack Lipton's October 2023 Update


Hey, colleagues. I hope that your instruction and scholarship are progressing well this term. Some updates.

First, at the University Council on September 26th, Vice President and Chief Safety Officer Marlon Lynch presented an update on the installation of locks and other security measures. You can watch a recording of his presentation at a

Second, I want to remind you that last June the Board of Trustees approved amendments to the Bylaws for Academic Governance, eliminating the three-year wait time for voting privileges for fixed- term faculty and specialists. That means that they now have the same privileges as tenure system faculty insofar as they can vote on university-level governance matters and run for university-level governance bodies. We look forward to our newest colleagues actively participating in academic governance as a result.

Finally, many Spartans were troubled by recent comments that Trustee and Chair of the Presidential Search Committee Dennis Denno made in a September 13th State News article. Trustee Denno said that the Board of Trustees would "very, very strongly take into consideration but names the search committee provides," but would not limit itself to candidates who are recommended by the search committee. He further stated that a strong candidate is "someone who recognizes that sports are the front porch of the university", and claimed that the next president of this multibillion dollar AAU member, Tier One Big Ten university, doesn't need to have an "academic background" a nd that business or military leaders should be considered. In response, at its September 19th meeting, the Faculty Senate passed a resolution introduced by Vice Chair Rebecca Malouin, which you can read in full at And that Faculty Senate resolution expressed the opinion that 1) the next president should be a preeminent scholar with substantial experience leading a university administration, 2) that the search not be rushed to finish by an arbitrary end date like the Thanksgiving deadline that Trustee Denno has identified and reaffirmed as his goal, and 3) that the selected candidate should be endorsed by both a majority of the presidential search committee and a majority of the faculty and academic staff representatives on the search committee.

This was quickly followed by a similar resolution passed by ASMSU, a public letter from deans and vice provosts, and a statement by Interim President Woodruff that the next president must be someone with a strong academic background. Then, in an interview in State News on October 8th , Trustee Denno said that he "misspoke" and that he "listened to the MSU community" and will now " not deviate from the candidates that the search committee has chosen." I don't know how you can both misspeak and change your mind as a result of listening to the MSU community, but the attention Faculty Senate brought to this matter is a timely reminder that the Faculty Senate's actions can be quite consequential.

All these updates remind me of something that an extremely influential leader of the university community recently said to me during a meeting. We were discussing someone whose actions and demeanor were materially destructive to the success and progress this university. They then stopped and stated that their mother always said, "If you don't have anything nice to say about someone, then don't say anything at all." I thought this was an easy out. An easy excuse. An excuse to not speak up. A n excuse to let others risk attention in the spotlight.

Should we not say anything when someone's actions threaten the well-being of our students, staff, or faculty? Should we say nothing when someone's official actions are selfish, self-promoting or self- aggrandizing rather than serving the collective good of our community? Should we stay silent when we observe missteps by a trustee in the presidential search or by the administration in a contract negotiation?

No. It was Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis who more than a century ago said that "Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants." We, as members of the university community, are responsible for applying that disinfectant as liberally as is warranted. We also cannot sit on the sidelines when our colleagues, whether they be students, staff, faculty, administrators, or trustees, are materially destructive to the collective success of our university community. We must risk the scrutiny that comes from standing up for what's right. The risk of attention does not limit our need to speak up. From trustees' actions in a presidential search to a colleague's treatment of learners in the lab, Spartans hold one another accountable.

I hope you will tune in to the livestream of the Faculty Senate on October 17th, the Board of Trustees meeting on October 27th, and the University Council on October 31st.

See you around campus.