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A roundup of recent Michigan newspaper editorials

January 29, 2018

The Detroit News. January 26, 2018

Board must follow Simon out door

The first step toward restoring Michigan State University’s credibility and reputation came this week with the resignation of President Lou Anna Simon, whose handling of the Dr. Larry Nassar scandal brought shame and condemnation to the university.

Now MSU will be looking for a new leader, one who will commit to transparency and accountability, and who will pledge fealty to the truth, no matter it leads. That, and putting in place a framework to assure this sort of abuse is never allowed to go unchecked again.

Members of the MSU Board of Trustees, which closed ranks around Simon and the administration and was no more interested in determining who at the school might have enabled Nassar’s 20 years of assaultive behavior, should not be the ones who pick Simon’s successor.

They are too compromised to be trusted with that vital task. The future integrity of Michigan State rests heavily on the caliber of leader who will guide the university through what are sure to be trying times ahead.

The honorable move for the eight trustees, and the best outcome for Michigan State, would be for them to follow Simon’s lead and resign.

That would allow Gov. Rick Snyder to appoint an interim board to serve until elections can be held. And that new board should name Simon’s successor. To make this as nonpartisan as possible, Snyder should ask for nominees from legislative leaders of both parties, and he should keep the makeup of the board, which has four Republicans and four Democrats.

The current board members are: Chairman Brian Breslin, Joel Ferguson, Dianne Byrum, Melanie Foster, Dan Kelly, Brian Mosallam, Mitch Lyons and George Perles. Lyons and Breslin have already announced they will not seek re-election this fall.

If an en masse resignation isn’t in the cards, at the very least, his fellow board members should pressure Joel Ferguson to leave immediately. Ferguson, first elected in 1986 and the longest serving board member, made unforgivable and flippant comments about Nassar’s serial molestations in a radio interview last week. He invited an NCAA investigation of the school by scoffing at the possibility of the probe because it involved the gymnastics program and not football.

That shows where his mind is. Like too many university board members, he cares only about the football and basketball programs, and the perks they provide trustees, and not about the well-being of the university as a whole.

That mind-set must change. The next board must fulfill its constitutional role as a watchdog of the administration. It is not there as a rubber stamp or to turn its head when the president or other officials betray the school’s trust.

As for Simon, the way in which she was forced to leave MSU was unfortunate. She had served the university for 40 years, 13 as president, and has many accomplishments to her credit. The university thrived under her direction.

But she grossly mishandled the Nassar affair, and in doing so denied a hearing to the girls and young women who were molested by the doctor while he was on the MSU staff.

Her resignation letter was a disappointment. She cites the political necessity of her leaving, but never actually accepts any responsibility for her role in what amounts to a cover-up by MSU.

Simon’s successor will have to manage through the nearly 200 civil suits filed against the university by Nassar’s victims. The ultimate cost is likely to be staggering, and could limit MSU’s future growth.

That new president will need the support of a clean-handed board, and one that share his or commitment to figuring out exactly what went wrong at MSU, who is culpable, and how to prevent a recurrence.

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Traverse City Record-Eagle. January 25, 2018

Dennos Museum elevates TC art scene

A just-completed expansion propels the Dennos Museum Center into a new era of regional art scene prominence.

Dennos first opened in 1991 and instantly became a centerpiece of the region’s art community. It offered small-town art lovers the chance to enjoy visual art in a big-city venue. The attached Milliken Auditorium adds another dimension to the art the facility can share with the public.

The $5 million expansion unveiled this week builds atop the venue’s established presence and makes the Dennos new again — with roughly twice as much exhibit space.

The new galleries are huge. They offer the museum better options to display more and larger pieces of its collection. But perhaps more important than the size of the galleries is the quality of the new space.

Walls of glass collect light from the northern Michigan sky and from the nearby grove of evergreen trees on the campus of Northwestern Michigan College. The glass allows natural light to illuminate the man made artwork within. The glass also brings the outside in — it frames the scene and transforms nature into an ever-changing artwork for patrons to admire alongside the smaller creations inside.

The added galleries function as a piece of architectural art visible from Munson Avenue. And the transparent walls allow people outside to see the artworks inside — which could help attract more visitors to the museum.

“Everyone who walks through is blown away,” said Museum Center Director Eugene Jenneman. “This is not what you’d expect in Traverse City or any city this size. I’ll put it up against any museum in the state for the quality of the space.”

Visual arts long have been an integral part of northwest Lower Michigan’s cultural scene. Water, sand and woods naturally seem to click with many artists, be they photographers, filmmakers, painters, sculptors or jewelry designers.

Traverse City’s fine arts scene is diverse. And thanks to the Dennos, the visual arts roll comfortably along next to music, food, wine, beer, coffee, literature and poetry.

Artistic endeavor is most rewarding when it is appreciated by an audience.

The Dennos for a quarter of a century has provided a place where audiences can study and appreciate visual art.

The current gallery expansion blasts the museum forward toward another 25 years of sharing artistry in a space that itself is a work of art.

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Times Herald (Port Huron). January 24, 2018

Teen Zone deserves our help

It is hard to not be impressed with the efforts and focus of the Marine City-area teenagers who are creating the River Rec Teen Zone. The student-led group is turning part of the historic Marine City City Hall into a recreation and drop-in center for teens.

They got a big boost for their dreams Wednesday when the Michigan Economic Development Corporation launched one of its Patronicity crowdfunding campaigns to generate capital for their project. Like the Patronicity campaign that helped fund the renovations of the Riverview Plaza courtyard in St. Clair, the state will provide a matching grant if donors contribute at least $30,000 for the teen center. The deadline is March 23.

Laura Scaccia, one of the adults guiding the group, said the River Rec Teen Zone will provide middle school and older teens “a safe, inclusive space for them to grow, for them to work with mentors, to be connected to the community, and hopefully, help give them confidence and skills in order to blossom and move forward as adults.”

Like the young people putting together the teen center, Scaccia is part of the Marine City Miracle. She and her fiancé, the late Gary Kohs, owned the Mariner Theater that is part of the city’s resurgent downtown. When Kohs died Dec. 15, his family asked that people who wanted to honor and remember him contribute to the Teen Zone instead of sending flowers.

The project has about $25,000 so far. It’s not enough.

Although the teens would like to do a lot of the work themselves, there is work that only qualified electricians, plumbers and other contractors can do. Paying for them will take donations to the crowdfunding campaign. If the $30,000 goal is met, those contributions will be doubled.

Donations are a good investment.

They do more than potentially give teens a place to hang out.

The money shows them that the community believes in and is inspired by their initiative. It shows that Marine City believes in its young people and is willing to invest in them. It rewards them for doing good — and not only for themselves but also for their peers who haven’t yet discovered the value of the project and for future teenagers.

Those future users of the River Rec Teen Zone are important. Teen-focused resources and opportunities are the sorts of amenities that make communities complete and vibrant, and that also attract families looking for a new place to call home.

The investment also brings new life to the historic City Hall. It doesn’t fulfill the dream of completely restoring and re-occupying the grand structure, but it is a start. And taking first steps, as Marine City knows, is how miracles get started.

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Lansing State Journal. January 23, 2018

Trustees should drop anonymity behind Simon support, go on record individually

Dozens of women and girls shed their anonymity this week during the sentencing hearing for convicted sex abuser Larry Nassar.

They bravely stood in open court, putting their names and faces into the record as victims - or shall we say survivors - of the former doctor who assaulted them under the guise of providing medical treatment.

They want to be heard. They want to be on record.

Members of the Michigan State University Board of Trustees should follow the lead of these women and girls.

Every trustee should be on record with his or her views on how MSU has handled the Larry Nassar case and sexual assault allegations on a broader level. It’s too easy for them to hide behind the collective statements, such as the one released Friday after trustees met for five hours.

“We continue to believe President Simon is the right leader for the university and she has our support,” said the statement Board chairman Brian Breslin read to the media. The calls for Simon’s resignation, which started with the LSJ Editorial Board on Dec. 3, are growing louder as the horror of Nassar’s actions has been driven home day after day. And growing numbers of Michiganders are stunned by the trustees’ inaction.

Friday’s unified statement lasted about 24 hours before trustee Mitch Lyons broke ranks, saying “I do not agree with our statement of support for Pres. Simon. As I expressed repeatedly to fellow board members during our discussion Friday, I don’t believe Pres. Simon can survive the public outcry that has been generated by this tragedy.”

So where do the other seven trustees stand?

Trustee Melanie Foster said they remain together in support of Simon.

Trustee Joel Ferguson said there would be “terrible collateral damage” if Simon is removed as president.

Trustee George Perles said he stands by Friday’s statement.

Trustee Dan Kelly said he had no further comment.

And trustees Brian Mosallam and Dianne Byrum haven’t responded to messages seeking comment.

Stop hiding behind prepared statements, MSU trustees. You are responsible for helping to lead Michigan State through what will undoubtedly be one of the most difficult stretches of its history. The people of Michigan deserve to know your thoughts on Nassar, Simon and the call for an outside investigation. They elected each of you. You are accountable to them.

If the survivors of Larry Nassar can find their voices and share the most horrific experiences of their lives in open court, surely each trustee elected to represent Michigan State University can answer the difficult questions being asked by survivors, students, alumni and supporters.

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