MSU Pres on tuition hike, new discrimination office, future challenges

Jul 10, 2015

Current State talks with Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon about the school’s recent tuition increase, its new office handling all investigations of discrimination including sexual assaults and harassment, and making Michigan State a tobacco-free campus.


Earlier this year, Lou Anna Simon marked her tenth anniversary as the President of Michigan State University. In her annual State of the University address in January, she commented on the changes ahead for higher education, saying there is “a new reality that may alter what we do and how we do it.”

On the news front, developments from the East Lansing campus since then include a bump in tuition rates, the establishment of a new office to handle all complaints of discrimination including sexual harassment and assault, and a move to a tobacco-free campus.

Current State talks with President Simon about these and other issues.

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS

Factors behind Board of Trustees decision to increase MSU tuition

Well, if you think about an appropriation from the state of about 1.8 percent, that gives you a total increase in the combination of tuition and fees that is inflationary at its rate. On the expense side we have a highly competitive faculty salary market for talent these days, so those increases need to be more than that. Fringe benefits, health insurance, utilities are all the kinds of drivers of the university budget.

We have been saving money over a period of time not reflected by this tuition increase to implement an academic competitiveness fund because we believe that we have to have a way of positioning for the future in key areas. So we've been saving a little bit of money by making reductions and tightening over time to be able to have a program of over a 100 new faculty across key areas… And in bigger areas so that we can say 10 years from now, 20 years from now, it's the next FRIB [Facility for Rare Isotope Beams], it's the next BEACON [Beacon Center for the Study of Evolution in Action]. And those are really important in this competitive environment.

How new discrimination office is unfolding and its expected outcome

What we've done is separate the Investigations Office from… what people would see as advocacy efforts for the institution. So that we have a set of people who are focused solely on investigations and moving them through effectively in ways that meet the best practices nationally. We've hired an individual who has, actually, experience as a prosecutor, an attorney, to run that office and we're moving through the backlog of cases and the reports I receive are that, while people may not always be satisfied with results, we're doing them in a much more effective manner.

MSU to become tobacco free campus within a year

It's something we've been trying to do for a while. We've done it under the Healthy Campus Initiative. It's effective August 2016. We already have an extensive array of smoking cessation programs and now we're going to be working with our collective bargaining units, our faculty/staff, in ways to make sure the implementation guidelines make sense.