EAST LANSING - Several hundred Michigan State University faculty members, staff and students marched to the Hannah Administration Building on Tuesday morning.
They called for newly appointed interim President John Engler to step down.
They demanded that administrators and the Board of Trustees take action to address shortcomings in the university’s handling of sexual assault cases.
Some speakers called for greater involvement of the faculty and students in the selection of MSU’s next president, input that protesters said was neglected prior to Engler's appointment last week.
“Our students are leading the way in resistance, and we aim to show them that we are listening and standing up, too,” said Terah Chambers, a faculty member within MSU’s College of Education who helped organize the march, reading a statement on behalf of faculty and staff concerned about ongoing issues at MSU.
Calls for Engler's resignation and the resignation of university trustees drew cheers from the crowd amassed in the shadow of MSU’s administration building.
"President Engler been on the job about 36 hours," said John Truscott, Engler's spokesman, hours after the march had finished. "We would hope that those folks showing their concerns would give him the opportunity to implement some of his decisions and judge him based on that."
Organizers delivered a letter to the offices of the president, Board of Trustees and provost that laid out three demands.
It called for the creation of a process to support survivors of abuse at the hands of former university doctor Larry Nassar.
It called for Engler to resign because students and faculty didn't have input in the decision by the board to appoint him.
And it called for the board to move quickly, with faculty input, to hire an experienced academic to be MSU’s next permanent president.
Laura Mortensen, a junior studying math and secondary education at MSU, said the university's problems with sexual assault go beyond Nassar.
“It’s disappointing that the school that has done so much good for me has such a huge problem,” she said.
Protesters filled out blue cards denoting their reasons for marching and attached them to the front door of the administration building.
Ahead of the protest, Robert Floden, dean of MSU's College of Education, hosted a town hall with faculty, staff and graduate students. Some 150 people attended.
Floden said MSU deans, himself included, met with Engler on Monday to discuss the next steps in the search for a permanent president, among other topics.
"I know there's a lot of anger and disappointment about with the way he was selected," he said, noting that the deans had sent a note to university trustees, which "expresses our dismay at the way input was done."
"He is now our president," Floden continued, "and, as deans, we're getting ready to work with him."
Engler told those assembled on Monday to look for examples where presidential searches at universities had satisfied constituents to use as a model for how MSU could conduct its own, Floden said.
Asked his thoughts about Engler, Floden said he brings experiences running large organizations, but no background running a university.
"This would be a very difficult position to take," Florden said. "It's hard to imagine anybody that has all the characteristics you would want someone to have."
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