On the banks of the Red Cedar, the various tribes are celebrating the departure of John Engler as Michigan State University President. They regard it as a win and I suppose it is. Former Governor Engler resigned following the capture of the MSU Board of Trustees by a Democratic Party majority in the November 2018 elections.
Now there’s a second head on the pikes to celebrate: Bob Young, the former Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, let go by MSU Acting President Satish Udpa. Young was appointed Vice-President and General Counsel by John Engler. His dumping—like Engler’s—should surprise no one. Engler was never going to be MSU President for a long, mellow reign. Wrong man, wrong job.
John Engler isn’t the college President type, not today. He was brought in for emergency surgery on a patient bleeding out before our eyes. The convicted rapist Larry Nasser, and the blind eye the University turned to him for years, had put MSU in a total crisis. The victims were many, the lawsuit liability was horrifying, and the reaction to all of the above threatened to shut down the entire institution.
Engler was the doctor you call when no one else can handle it. You’ve seen the movies on TV: The tough-talking, no b.s. guy who takes charge. He strolls into the emergency room knocking ash off his cigar, hands his beer to the police chief, gives the lady District Attorney a bag of solution to hold up, bends over the patient, and says, “Can I get some goddam light here?”
That’s John Engler.
Cleaning up the rotten spots of the University and its departments without damaging the innocent ones was job one. Job one-and-a-half was ending the lawsuits that could have easily bankrupted the University. As it is, the half a billion-dollar settlement is no freebie. There are those who say this does not matter; that the only “justice” demands unlimited liability. Some of that is argued by Plaintiffs’ attorneys, which is their proper job.
But Michigan State University belongs to the people of the State of Michigan, and there’s a state interest in seeing it continue. Besides, can you ever totally make whole a young woman who was raped by her doctor? Where’s the cut off? Not an easy question. Engler got things done for $500 million. Plaintiffs and their lawyers protested, understandably. But, they did settle.
However, once the emergency room genius stabilizes the patient, he grins, pockets a check, and heads back to wherever he came from. Today’s university presidents are mainly plausible figureheads and fund raisers who just preside over vast institutions they really don’t control. They try and keep the crazycakes, hothouse flowers that grow in college towns at least semi-out of the headlines, schmooze the legislature and donors and watch their major sports franchises. The President doesn’t tell the Marxist faculty in the departments what to do, nor the Athletic Director. No, they weakly acquiesce to creeping illiberalism from kiddie “Red Guards.”
Does this sound like John Engler?
But even if he’d be the greatest MSU President since John Hannah, he’d never get to do it. Why? The Democrats hate him. He beat them every time, and they want revenge. Once they got control of the Board, it was “sayonara!” Yes, it is just that simple. Memories are long on the donkey-side. As soon as the 2018 elections handed the Board of Trustees majority to the Dems, Engler knew this full well and grabbed the first train out of Dodge before the new Sheriffs could shoot him for resisting arrest.
Same deal for Bob Young. You’d think a former Chief Justice would be a legal asset for MSU, especially one with strong Capitol ties and relationships. One who had just saved your institution from a possibly bottomless legal liability. Nope. The Democratic Party has never forgiven Young for leading the Supreme Court to decide cases based on the law, rather than dictates from Solidarity House or wherever the Michigan Education Association has its offices these days. “Death penalty, Sir!”
So now you know how the game of “Campus Thrones” is played. Michigan State is Democrat Country, and don’t you forget it! Don’t cry for John Engler or Bob Young; both are smart veterans who knew the score going in. Michigan State University is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party. Watch for news from the Sensitivity Stasi. Which should be irrelevant but, of course, it isn’t.
Unless, of course, the Spartans go to the Final Four or the Rose Bowl. Then all is forgiven. Trust me.
–Chuck Moss, MSU, James Madison Class of 1975
teaches Political Science at Oakland University and serves on the Board of the Regional Transportation Authority. He was elected to represent the 40th District in the Michigan House and was appointed Chairman of the all-important Appropriations Committee, responsible for the entire state budget. Prior to politics, Chuck was political columnist for the DETROIT NEWS, and has hosted talk shows for radio and television.