EAST LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan State University Board of Trustees has two seats up for grabs this year. Incumbent Renee Knake Jefferson and second-time candidate Dennis Denno are the two Democrats running for a seat.
Jefferson is running for her first full term. She was appointed to the Board of Trustees at the end of 2019 by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer after another trustee resigned over a disagreement about how to handle the Larry Nasser documents that the board had refused to release to the state Attorney General's Office.
“ I did take it upon myself to look through all of them about 10,000 pages on my own, to make sure that the information that needed to be publicly available to hold those accountable who should be had happened,” Jefferson said.
If re-elected, she said her goal is to be a champion of change and to create a safer environment for students.
“One of the best ways to ensure institutional accountability is to make the processes we follow uniform as much as we can and also transparent, not so that we are trying to discipline or catch people, but by making them transparent, we all hold each other to a higher level of accountability,” she said.
Jefferson also wants to work to make tuition affordable and build stronger local partnerships.
“This university touches all 83 counties in the state of Michigan through our extension program, and I want to see us grow educational and economic opportunities through all 83 of those counties going forward,” she said.
Denno runs a public opinion research firm and was a staffer in the Michigan Legislature for 17 years. He ran for a seat on the board in 2010 and made a brief bid in 2018 before dropping out. He feels he has a lot to bring to the table.
“The MSU board is basically the legislative branch of Michigan State University, we serve as a check and balance on the MSU president. And I think my skill sets and my understanding of how the legislature works, will really be helpful if I am fortunate enough to be elected,” Denno said.
His campaign focuses on transparency.
“When there's a crisis at Michigan State, there's a tendency to circle the wagons and that's not healthy…” he said. “I think part of this would be, you know, releasing those 800 documents relating to the Nasser scandal, right. I think that's first and foremost…let's work together with our community partners and just be more honest and open with the community.”
Denno also wants to increase the minimum wage for MSU employees and ensure campus safety.
Both candidates got the endorsement of the state Democratic Party at its convention last week. They'll be on the ballot in November.
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