Michigan State's new university president said the sexual assault scandal that rocked the campus and community in East Lansing for the past several years will not be forgotten and will instead "drive everything we do," during an introductory board meeting Tuesday morning.
The university's board of trustees and a search committee selected Samuel Stanley to take over as Michigan State's top leader this summer. Stanley, a Harvard-educated medical doctor, spent the past decade as the president at Stony Brook University in New York. Protesters who are unhappy with how the school's administration has communicated with the community and survivors who were sexually abused by high-profile Spartans such as disgraced team doctor Larry Nassar picketed Stanley's introduction with signs and teal ribbons Tuesday morning.
"I want to meet with the survivors and their families, listen to their voices and thoughts, learn from them," Stanley said during brief comments made at the board meeting. "I want to work with them and all the campus community to ensure the changes that need to be made are implemented."
Stanley is the university's fourth leader in the past 18 months and the non-interim hire after Lou Anna Simon resigned amid controversy in January 2018. He is the first outsider to hold that office since 1985.
Simon resigned the same day that Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in state prison for sexually abusing his patients and other women during his time as a Michigan State employee. Simon was charged with lying to police as part of an investigation conducted by Michigan's attorney general into how the university responded to previous complaints about Nassar.
Former state governor John Engler replaced Simon. He was criticized by many who felt he showed a lack of empathy and awareness while attempting to push the university past the sexual assault scandal. He was accused of bullying survivors and others and was ousted from his interim role in January after telling the Detroit News he thought that survivors of Nassar's abuse were "enjoying the spotlight." He was replaced by university dean Satish Udpa while the search committee completed its process of finding a permanent replacement.
Professors, students and others organized a group called Reclaim MSU and asked that the university community have input in choosing its next president. The group criticized the trustees' lack of transparency after its request for an open search was not granted. The group held signs outside the administration building Tuesday morning saying they "do not consent" to the new hire, according to Lansing State Journal reporter Carol Thompson.
"I don't know why they think they can make a good decision without input from the community," professor Anna Pegler-Gordon, a member of Reclaim MSU, told Thompson.
Trustees Dianne Byrum and Melanie Foster, co-chairs of the search committee, previously said they were concerned that revealing the names of candidates for the job would scare away the most qualified candidates who already hold leadership positions elsewhere.
Byrum said Tuesday that the committee chose Stanley in part because of his strong academic record. Stanley took over as president at Stony Brook in 2009. Before that he was vice chancellor for research at Washington University in St. Louis. He said Tuesday that he likes the trajectory of his new university, but also sees a community that still needs to heal.