On August 1, Samuel Stanley Jr. officially became Michigan State University's 21st president. Stanley is a medical doctor and a former president at Stony Brook University in New York.
He is the first permanent leader at the university since former President Lou Anna Simon resigned at the height of the Larry Nassar scandal. After her resignation, former Michigan Governor John Engler, and then MSU Dean Satish Udpa, served as interim presidents.
Stateside spoke with Stanley about why he wanted the position, and what his goals are for his first year in office.
You can hear our full conversation with MSU President Samuel Stanley, Jr. above.
How do we begin to turn the cultural tide where women and all people are feeling safe on campus and around the campus areas?
Stanley says that he needs to deliver a system that people have confidence in. He wants to make sure "people believe that if they make a report, the report will be fairly investigated—that there’s enough people on campus to do those investigations in a timely and effective manner."
He also believes that education and awareness on campus is important.
"So we’ve reached, as I’ve mentioned before, 72,000 people in training last year," Stanley said. "That’s incredibly important. But we need to find different ways to reach people. It’s not enough to just do online."
How do you begin to tackle some of those issues?
Stanley says the first thing he wants to do as president is meet with sexual assault survivors. Then he wants to take steps to better understand the culture and climate at MSU. He says the school has recently completed a survey 15,000 faculty, staff, and students.
"The data from that will be coming out and that will help guide," Stanley said. "And then, paying attention to the multiple investigations that have taken place. Where are areas where our policies and procedures broke down? Where are areas where we may have been understaffed? Where are areas where people didn’t know where responsibilities were, or if they [did], then they failed to act on them?"
You said, and you have said before, that you are planning on meeting with survivors of Larry Nassar. Have you been able to speak with them yet?
"No, not directly. But that will take place in September. So we’re working now, so we have a relationship violence and sexual misconduct group. So they’re working now as a liaison for us with the survivor communities. And that would be not just survivors of Nassar, but survivors of sexual assault in the MSU community. And so we’ll have meetings with those groups."
These major institutions in the state have struggled to make sure their populations are diverse. How do you go about turning the tide to looking maybe more like Stony Brook?
Stanley says that it starts with him at the top.
"It needs to be clear to everyone in the institution that this is something I value and care about, that this matters to me. And I’m going to hold people accountable essentially for their performance in that area."
At Stonybrook, Stanley says he implemented reviews with his senior leadership team to evaluate diversity in application pools and hirings. He also incorporated trainings on diversity and cultural competency into pre-orientation programs in an effort to improve campus climate.
Do you think you’ll have to be combating the ills of the previous administration?
"I don’t really know the answer to that yet. I know I’m going to work very hard to earn people’s trust and that’s based on, you know, doing the things I say I’m going to do. We’ve talked about a lot of things today, but the question is: Am I going to do them? I think by doing those things and being committed to the things I talked about today, to actually implementing them, I think that’s how you start to earn trust."
This post was written by production assistant Catherine Nouhan