Running for the MSU Board of Trustees

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For more than 150 years, MSU has had a governing body to make decisions on the budget, policies and the university as a whole. On Nov. 8, Michigan voters will elect two members of the Board of Trustees for eight years, a decision that will affect MSU students immensely.

Of the eight candidates running for two seats, only four have acquired any form of campaign donations: the two Democrats and the two Republicans.

The two incumbents, Democrats Diann Woodard and Dianne Byrum, have sat on the board for eight years and are running for re-election.

Byrum said the role of the trustee is to “put students first, make sure Michigan State is better tomorrow than it is today.”

Tuition was raised for the seventh consecutive year in June, but Byrum says the tuition image02vote is the hardest vote a trustee will cast. Byrum said decisions about tuition are the hardest to make for the board.

“Trying to constrain tuition increases is a top priority with me,” Byrum said.

Byrum, a first-generation college graduate, runs Byrum & Fisk Advocacy Communications, a communications firm in East Lansing.

Byrum is also one of three women who currently sits on the board.

So far, Byrum’s campaign has raised more donations than any other candidate. Her donations equal  $12,500 for her reelection, according to required documents filed with the Secretary of State. In 2008, her campaign raised close to $50,000, significantly more than her current run. Woodard has raised $10,000.

“My No. 1 priority is to make sure Michigan State is accessible, affordable and is a valuable, high-quality education for students,” Byrum said. “Students are at my forefront.”

“I try to make myself accessible, if I get contacted by student I respond,” Byrum said.

Transparency of the board is a core of Byrum’s campaign, she said. Transparency tactics include meeting with students, emailing with them and speaking to different groups on behalf of the board.

“My way of giving back is serving on the Michigan State University Board of Trustees,” Byrum said.

Woodard could not be reached for comment.

Hoping to break down the door, Republican nominee and attorney Dan Kelly plans to make his voice heard at MSU.

“My primary goal is to make sure MSU stays open and available and affordable to Michigan residents,” Kelly said. “There is a trend away from that.”

Kelly’s campaign received $7,650 in campaign donations. Comparatively, Republican nominee William Deary has donated more than $122,500 to his own campaign out of pocket.

For the past six years, Kelly has sat on the Oakland Community College board, where tuition has not been raised throughout his time there. Kelly said this was accomplished with a balanced budget.

Kelly, who has two daughters who attend MSU in addition to a daughter who graduated, said he understands the importance of keeping MSU affordable and he experiences it first hand.

“I have a vested interest in MSU from a student’s perspective,” Kelly said.

Kelly said OCC had tuition increases brought up nearly every one of the six years, but the board found ways to avoid it.

As for plans and ideas for the candidate if he wins the seat, Kelly wants to make discussions surrounding MSU’s more than $1.2 billion budget transparent, which he thinks starts with open door meetings.  The board holds six meetings a year that are open to the public but also holds numerous closed-door committee meetings.

“Tuition is really the solution and not the cause,” Kelly said. MSU’s budget has gone up each year in recent years and the solution is raising tuition to match it, Kelly said.

Kelly said the board has used tuition to cover $50 million increases to the general fund budget each year of the tuition increase.

Kelly said the amount of out-of-state students enrolled at MSU, which has grown in the past four years, raises tuition for the Michigan residents who Kelly thinks deserve precedence.

“At the very minimum I will pledge that I’ll make sure if there is a $50 million budget increase that I’ll have a discussion about it,” Kelly said.

Kelly’s fellow Republican, William Deary, could not be reached for comment.

Other candidates running for the two open seats include the Libertarian Party, U.S. Taxpayers and Green Party.

For Green Party nominee Will Tyler White, the exclusive focus on a two-party system shuts out third party ideas.

“It is important to look for other voices,” White said.

The Green Party, a political party that is connected to American social movements, and is part of a global Green movement that shares key values, according to the Green Party website.

White owns White Bros. Music in Bath Township.

White made the decision to not accept campaign donations because he wants “to keep the money out of politics.” According to the Secretary of State, White not received any campaign donations.

White believes MSU’s raising of tuition consecutively is a trend that must end.

“One way to keep money out of politics is to vote for the candidates who don’t spend any money,” White said.

White hopes that the Green Party priorities will be brought onto the board if he were to be elected in order to create change for students.

“Tuition rates are too high and students are not getting a good value for what they are paying,” White said.

White explained that MSU students’ “good value” in their education would be getting a job right after graduation.

According to MSU’s postgrad survey, the post-graduate employment rate is 92 percent.

The eight candidates will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot, which students can find at the Michigan Voter Center Information website.