School Choice

Michigan State Students and Faculty Protest Interim President for Supporting School Choice, Not Being a Woman

The Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal brings new leadership and old complaints.


John Engler
Chris Kleponis/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom

Student-activists crashed a meeting of the Michigan State University Board of Trustees this morning. They were there to protest the decision to hire John Engler as the university's interim president. (Engler's predecessor, Lou Anna Simon, resigned in the wake of the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal.)

One student climbed onto a table, sat down, and delivered a speech lamenting that Engler, a Michigan State graduate who served as governor from 1991 to 2003, "further corporatizes Michigan State University, defunds and de-integritizes Michigan State's public education reputation." Other activists then began snapping their fingers and clapping their hands.

The protester was apparently referencing Engler's long history of supporting school choice reforms in the state, which many activists view as an attack on the public education system—even though the case for school choice is, as Reason's Nick Gillespie puts it, "overwhelming."

Some instructors were also bothered by the trustees' choice, albeit for different reasons. Notably, they were upset that Engler is not a woman.

"We suggested that a strong effort be made to place a woman with extensive academic leadership experience in this position, because her lived experience would provide needed wisdom at this juncture," some of the faculty said in a statement.

One might think the necessity of finding a female candidate would be undercut by the fact that the Nassar scandal unfolded under the watch of Simon, a woman. In any event, Engler is only an interim pick until a permanent candidate is found.

Simon isn't going to disappear, by the way. According to the terms of her contract, the university still has to pay her millions of dollars over the course of the next several years.