Ask Dean Croson

Dean Rachel Croson's Perspective about the leadership transition at MSU

January 17, 2019

Yesterday Interim President John Engler submitted his resignation. Over this past year, MSU has made much progress but has also experienced significant setbacks.

Our search for a permanent President is underway, and I am optimistic that a candidate will be chosen this spring and will start this summer. In the meantime, the Trustees have named Dr. Satish Udpa as Acting President

I fully support the choice of Dr. Udpa. He has served as a faculty member, Department Chair, Dean and Executive Vice President.  In all those roles, he has proven to be an ethical and supportive leader. He understands the internal and external forces facing MSU, and has my strongest endorsement.

My faculty and staff, and all of MSU’s leadership, continue our commitment to ensuring that our students are safe and supported, and that they receive the very best education possible.  As the Deans wrote in a recent letter, published in Inside Higher Education,

“We must avoid the temptation to put the Nassar crisis behind us. Rather, we need to keep what happened and the lessons we are learning from it in front of us.”

We will never forget the tragedy of what the Sister Survivors experienced and our failure to protect those who were assaulted and abused. We will use those memories to continue to reform our institution, and all of higher education. I know that Dr. Udpa shares this belief and he will be a strong partner in our work on the important cultural changes that need to happen.

Please feel free to reach out if you have any additional concerns or if I can provide more information.  You can email me at askdeancroson(at)

Sincerely yours,

Rachel Croson Signature 


Rachel T.A. Croson

Dean, College of Social Science







Frequently Asked Questions & Comments


March 1, 2018

This has been a devastating month as we came to grips with the horrible abuses committed by Larry Nassar and the heart-wrenching testimony of the survivors. MSU as an institution failed both the survivors and our community. As a Spartan, I am saddened beyond words.

I admire the bravery these survivors showed in bringing justice to this evil man. Their actions empowered a movement and other survivors to speak out in the future.  We must do everything in our power to honor their courage by insisting on a culture that does not tolerate or protect despicable behavior and that enables every voice to be heard and every person to be safe.  Most importantly, we must hold each other accountable.

I am especially concerned about our students; ensuring their safety, their education and their eventual success. Our students feel, quite rightly, that we have not listened to them, and I am committed to listening. I have visited some of our largest classes, met with the Dean’s Student Advisory Council, and held an open Town Hall for all Social Science students. I have set up a dedicated email account for students who want to be heard but don’t want to be identified or can’t be here in person (askdeancroson(at) I have complied Frequently Asked Questions and made them available below. I have offered to visit with any student organizations who wanted to meet. I have heard anger and fear and sorrow and disappointment, but also hope and commitment to work toward a better future.

I firmly believe that our students and the College of Social Science will be a part of the solution.  Our School of Social Work continues to provide important expertise and manpower. Our Couple and Family Therapy Clinic in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies has offered free counseling services to all MSU students. We have expertise in understanding culture in Anthropology, governance in Political Science, and sexual assault in Social Work, Human Development and Family Studies, and Psychology. While we can never lose sight of what happened and that MSU failed the survivors, I believe that MSU will ultimately be defined by how we respond to this tragedy and the legacy we create beginning now.  This is a critical moment for us to lead and to teach.

Just as I want to hear our students, I also want to hear you. We must all be part of the solution. Please feel free to reach out via email (askdeancroson(at) or by phone, 517-355-6675

In ten years MSU will be a very different place than it is today. If we all work together, we can make it a better place—more transparent, more just, and more safe. I am committed to that effort, and I hope you will join me. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely yours,


Rachel T.A. Croson

Dean, College of Social Science



As mentioned, I have now visited large social science classes, met with the Dean’s Student Advisory Committee, Social Science Advisors, and held a Town Hall for Social Science students. This following describes a set of questions I have been asked, or opinions expressed, and my reactions/responses. It is organized into sections based on the topic of the question.

I intend to update this document as new questions or statements come in, either via askdeancroson(at), or through other channels. If there is something you feel is missing, please feel free to reach out and let me know.

Jump to:



Your safety and well-being is a top priority.  If you need someone to talk to, if you feel unsafe, or if you need information on reporting abuse, find resources to help you here.

Sometimes students need to go to someone who is not a mandatory reporter. What can they do?

Almost all MSU faculty and staff are mandatory reporters, which means that if a student, staff or faculty member talks with them about an abusive situation they must report the incident to the appropriate office at MSU. That said, there are some units that are not mandatory reporters. These include the offices below.


As an RA, I know that students who are looking to see Counseling and Psychiatry Services (CAPS) are facing a 5-6 week delay. How can that be fixed?

On Wednesday, January 31 many of the staff involved in providing psychological support for students met, and all reported a significant increase in demand for their services. I met with CAPS leadership on February 7. They are putting together a request to increase staffing that will be considered by the Interim President. I believe that meeting is scheduled for the week of February 12. CAPS is also calling on their partners and others to help. Many of my clinical faculty in the School of Social Work, the Psychology Department and Human Development and Family Studies have volunteered to help. The Couple and Family Therapy Clinic, which typically charges for its services, is offering them for free for MSU students, staff and faculty, for example.

Counseling costs money beyond what is offered initially for free; I want more funds available to students who need continued counseling/resources.

As reported by our CAPS consultant in the room, CAPS offers unlimited counseling sessions at no cost for students. They also offer access to a psychiatrist (a medical doctor who can prescribe medication). The first three visits with the psychiatrist are free, then there is a charge. As mentioned above, I know that CAPS is requesting additional funding, both for the increased demand they are facing and for the future.

We need a safer campus! The streetlights are too low, and I don’t feel safe walking on campus at night (another student suggested LED lighting on campus). The services for rides at night (SafeRide and Night Owl) are overburdened; it takes a long time for someone to get you and then to get home.

These are great suggestions, and I will pass them to Vice President Udpa and others who might be willing to change what MSU does.

Can we offer and take self-defense classes?

Recreational Sports and Fitness offers 2-hour self defense classes. You can arrange for a class for your floor, department, student group or student organization at:

Safety and self-defense are great, but more lights won’t do anything until we change the culture. I have felt threatened and unsafe for many years here, including facing racist language in my dorm, feeling physically unsafe, ...

Your dorm is the place where you should feel most safe! I suggest reaching out to Sharron Chia Claros, the Associate Director for Diversity and Inclusion in Resident Education & Housing Services (chiaclar(at), 517-884-5483). The Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives ( offers trainings that can be scheduled for your floor (or the entire dorm), or Ms. Claros can suggest other steps you can take.

We should put social workers in the police department and in the Office of Institutional Equity.

This is an excellent idea, and I will certainly pass it on to those departments.

There should be no liquor/alcohol allowed in the skybox at the stadium, to set an example for a responsible use of alcohol.

Given the overall dangers of alcohol on campus (, I see reducing alcohol use on campus as a good direction, independent of its impact on this issue. That said, the link between alcohol and sexual assault is hotly debated. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates that only half of the cases of sexual assault involve alcohol consumption (, approximately the same rate as for all violent crimes. Additionally, the causal link between alcohol and sexual assault is unclear. Quoting from this document:

 …in some cases, the desire to commit a sexual assault may actually cause alcohol consumption (e.g., when a man drinks alcohol before committing a sexual assault in order to justify his behavior). Moreover, certain factors may lead to both alcohol consumption and sexual assault. For example, some fraternities encourage both heavy drinking and sexual exploitation of women (Abbey et al. 1996b).

Alcohol is not the problem, drinking doesn’t make it OK to treat people poorly or assault them. Education is more important as a tool to lessen rape culture; students need rules.

I wholeheartedly agree with this statement. I think of education as an inoculation that needs regular booster shots. I think we need to go beyond one-time training, to a more continual/continuous set of interventions. Culture change cannot be accomplished in one sitting.




How can we involve students and faculty (and staff) in the search for a permanent President?

A typical search for a permanent President begins with a search committee made up of MSU faculty, staff, alumni and students. It includes a search firm, and finalists are brought to campus to hold an open forum. Typically a survey is sent out, collecting input from all of the MSU community on the strength of the finalists. The final decision is made by the Board of Trustees. I intend to advocate for this type of inclusive and transparent search for our next President.

Will the new President be an inside or outside President?

While no one can say for sure what will happen in an open search, I expect we will end up with an external President.

Will tuition be increased?

While one never knows about the future, there are no current plans to increase tuition. Note that tuition increases are capped by the Michigan State Legislature

Has the crisis had an effect on applications or admissions?

My understanding is that applications are still strong, but it is still early, so one never knows. My belief is that applications from out-of-state students and international students are most at risk.

MSU has strong academics, will that change?

Faculty I speak with remain committed to teaching, to their research, and to developing the next generation of citizens. Interim President Engler opened his remarks to the Deans on February 5 with a concern for our 50,000 current students, to ensure that they are safe, that they receive the education they need and that the value of their degree remains high. I see no evidence that this will change.

I’m here to get a good education. Who is in charge of ensuring that I will still receive one? 

All our faculty, staff and administration are committed to ensuring the quality of your education. If you feel that these events are distracting you from focusing on your studies, I urge you to reach out to the various counseling resources on campus. If you feel that your professors are changing the material they cover, or covering less material in their classes because of these events, I encourage you to talk with them to let them know. 

Will this impact my job search?

Our MSU staff who run career fairs report that employer interest in MSU students has not decreased, and may even be up over last year. Time will tell if we see any changes, but employers are reporting that this tragedy has not changed their desire to hire Spartans.

Do you plan to address people pulling donations and will that be communicated to students?

I have been calling major donors to the College of Social Science, and will be communicating more broadly with alums in the coming weeks. So far, although fundraising has been lower, we have not seen too many individuals who committed to a gift changing their minds. A recent article in the Detriot News describes the current situation and our anticipated future path. 

Don’t we do background checks on employees and faculty?

We absolutely do; every faculty and staff must undergo a background check. Background checks examine country, state and federal criminal records, the nationwide sex offender registry, and federal disbarment lists. On February 8 MSU announced an updated background check policy, which extends the requirement to get a background check to volunteers, and requires every employee to disclose professional misconduct or sanctions, any civil rights violations and any felony crime. The text of this new requirement is below.

In addition, all individuals who hold a faculty, academic staff, or executive management appointment are required to disclose to the Associate Provost and Associate Vice President for Academic Human Resources within 72 hours of the period of their occurrence, or at the earliest possible opportunity, all relevant events that could adversely affect their ability to fulfill successfully the responsibilities of their appointment, including:

 A.      Professional misconduct or sanctions

B.      Any civil rights violation that the individual admitted or was determined by a court or other adjudicative process to have committed

C.      Any felony crime for which the individual was arrested and charged or any serious crime(including drug distribution, sexual offenses, violence, child abuse, molestation, child endangerment, theft or embezzlement) for which the individual was convicted or pled “no contest.”

We need to change our Title IX / Office of Institutional Equity processes; they are currently legalistic and not trauma-informed. The process takes far too long and is so secret that if you wait for resolution victims are criticized for “waiting too long” to come forward.

I fully agree. We have a number of faculty on campus who are experts in this field, including in the departments of Psychology, Social Work, and Human Development and Family Studies. I intend to call on them to help MSU improve its policies and procedures. ADDED 3/1/18: Interim President Engler has appointed three of the College of Social Science faculty with relevant expertise to a Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct Workgroup. This workgroup’s webpage includes an avenue for you to send your suggestions to the Workgroup. I encourage anyone with good ideas to communicate them at:

The problem is there no consequences after sexual assault, perpetrators know it is wrong, but nothing will happen to them because nothing will happen.

The Office of Institutional Equity is responsible for investigating reports it receives and determining whether or not there is a violation of our ADP or RVSM policies. Sometimes those investigations result in no findings; there is not enough evidence to judge one way or another what happened. When they do find a violation of policy, the findings go to Student Conduct (for students) Human Resources (for staff) and Academic Human Resources (for faculty) to determine what the consequences of the policy violation are. Often those consequences are confidential; thus others may not know what happened as a result of their report or testimony. I understand both how confidentiality is important to ensure due process, and how this opacity can inhibit the formation of a responsible culture on campus, as it seems like nothing is happening (when in fact, it is). I personally believe that a reexamination of our policies around confidentiality could actively contribute to the culture on campus.

We need to ensure appropriate staffing of sexual assault investigators; what is the case load and how many investigators do we have? (answer from Jayne Schuiteman, Interim Director of Office of Institutional Equity)

MSU has nine dedicated investigators along with a Law Fellow all of whom investigate allegations of relationship violence and sexual misconduct. Last year OIE received over 700 reports of discrimination/harassment; 461 of the reports involved relationship violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment and/or stalking. The vast majority of reports do NOT result in formal investigations for several different reasons including non-participation and allegations not reaching the threshold for formal investigation.

We also need to fix the RVSM training; it’s horrible!

There are a number of different trainings offered around campus, for different audiences (students, faculty, staff, …). I hope we can take this opportunity to revisit both the content of what is delivered and how it is delivered to make those trainings more effective, and drive cultural change. At the Social Science Town Hall, students suggested: 

  • doing the SARV training at orientation
  • making the SARV training mandatory (with real consequences for not attending and participating)
  • making the SARV training more interesting and relevant
  • delivering the SARV training via trained professionals rather than student peers
  • focusing the SARV and RVSM training on prevention rather than recovery from sexual assault
  • ensuring that students know they can prosecute and what the process looks like, including sex positivity in the SARV training
  • adding more bystander training
  • avoiding triggers in the SARV and RVSM training
  • relying on the expertise of faculty in all training’s development

Students who have been through the training have good ideas for how it can be improved, and should be an integral part of its reform.

ADDED 3/1/18: Interim President Engler has appointed three of the College of Social Science faculty with relevant expertise to a Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct Workgroup. This workgroup’s webpage includes an avenue for you to send your suggestions for training to the Workgroup. I encourage anyone with good ideas to communicate them at:

There are also problems in the Greek system. Why are students suspended for hazing but not for sexual assault? (answer from Terry Frazier in Student Affairs and Services)

Students can be suspended for hazing and sexual assault. Greek Chapters can also be suspended by their national councils if there are ongoing problems in the Chapter. There is an investigative process for problems. Students aware of any issues related to Greek Life should direct them to either Student Affairs or the Assistant Director of Greek Life (Erika Bellingham, bellin34(at) See also response to the question below.

Black students are treated a lot differently. What time do white frat parties shut down? 5-6am. No police go there. Black frat parties are shut down earlier, and the police will be there.

Unequal treatment is always a concern. I understand that Student Affairs and Services is searching for a new leader of Greek Life. Typically, students in the Greek system participate actively in the search, but I believe that greater participation from all students would be of value. All candidates give an open forum. I encourage you to attend these forums and ask tough questions of the candidates, to ensure there is change in how policies are enacted and enforced. As with the new Athletic Director, I will advocate for someone in this position who has zero tolerance for sexual assault or harassment, racism or sexism, and a demonstrated record of prosecuting and disciplining those who engage in these behaviors. I encourage you to join me in this advocacy.

I never see my RA, and they have been even scarcer since this crisis. (answer from Terry Frazier in Student Affairs and Services)

Students with concerns about their RA should contact their neighborhood Community Director. If their concerns are not addressed, contact Ray Gasser, Director of REHS at gasserra(at) or at 517-884-4996.

Can we use design thinking to help create a new culture at MSU?

This is a great idea and I will suggest it to my fellow Deans.

I want to see action! What will you be doing with your notes?

The Deans have been meeting regularly and collectively throughout the last month. I intend to bring these questions and comments to that group for discussion for potential inclusion into our messages to Provost Youatt and Interim President Engler, and pass along comments to specific offices at MSU as needed.




Are other Deans visiting classes/holding Town Halls too?

Each Dean is reaching out to students in their own way, depending on the nature of their College. For Social Science, because we teach so many students from across MSU, I felt that visiting a few large classes would be a good first start. I have also met with the Dean’s Student Advisory Council (DSAC) to hear their input. I have asked student organizations if I may come and speak in their regularly-scheduled meetings, and I have set up an email address (askdeancroson(at) for students who want to express themselves without meeting face-to-face. We also held a Town Hall for students for Thursday, February 8. The video from that event can be found here. The questions in this document are a collection of those I have received through all these channels.

Is the Board of Trustees listening?

Trustee Mossalam held a Town Hall on February 1, and the comments made were transcribed and redacted to protect the speakers’ confidentiality. These comments have been sent to ASMSU and COGS to share with their members, and can be found at: While I can’t attest to each Trustee’s attitude, I do believe that the Trustees as a whole, and Interim President Engler, want to hear about students’ concerns and address them as best they can.

What is happening with the Spartans Will campaign?

The branding campaign is on hold, and MSU has pulled some advertising as well. My expectations are that when the permanent President arrives, they will decide whether to re-activate the campaign, or to design a new one.

What can we do about student apathy around this issue?

It is only natural that different issues resonate with different students. For the students who are engaged with this crisis, I want to ensure that you are heard, and that your ideas and suggestions are incorporated into our plans moving forward.

What power do undergraduates have? If we see a wrong, what can we do? (answer from Terry Frazier in Student Affairs and Services)

There are many units on campus designed to receive complaints and concerns from students.

On-campus students should reach out to their Resident Assistant / Assistant Community Director or Community Director of their residential hall if it’s an issue occurring in the dorm (i.e., roommate issues, neighborhood issues). If they feel their problems are still not being heard they should contact Ray Gasser who is the Director of REHS at gasserra(at) or at 517-884-4996.

The Student Conduct Office is also a resource that students should be familiar with:

Issues occurring off-campus and/or crimes should immediately be reported to the police.

ASMSU is the undergraduate student governing body and COGS is the student body for graduate students. Students can reach out to the respective presidents for support as well. and

The communication with students has been horrible; we learn about everything from our parents or the news. How can that be improved?

I fully agree; the internal communication at MSU has been tightly constrained. Deans are now communicating directly with our students, faculty, staff, and alumni, and I hope this will continue. I will bring this comment to the Vice President of Communications and Brand Strategy (Heather Swain), and will suggest that she seek to coordinate a better strategy of communication across campus.

Even beyond this crisis, I know of a number of incidents on campus that have not been communicated by the police to the campus community. Can we “push” notices of crimes to students? Who decides what crimes are included on MSU Alert?

My understanding is that MSU alert notifications are reserved for situations where there is an immediate danger; it does not provide alerts about crimes more generally. The Clery Act requires all colleges and universities whose students receive federal aid to keep and disclose information about crime on and near the campus. The log for crimes reported in the past 60 days can be found at:

I suggest a day of lamentation, held in Spartan Stadium, in which the old MSU dies and a new one is born from the ashes.

An interesting and very visible idea! I will pass it along to MSU leadership.

Is there a way to disseminate all the information you get as dean to students, and a way for people to ask questions?

This is a great question! This FAQ is my first attempt at disseminating what I know. I hope it will also communicate what I think, but more importantly, what other students are thinking and asking about. I have also set up an email address askdeancroson(at), where anyone can ask a question and I will answer it privately. If I feel the question would be useful to add to this FAQ, I will certainly do so.

Are professors being encouraged to talk to students about this? I want to discuss this in class, and am disappointed that my professors haven’t brought it up.

I encourage any faculty member who feels comfortable to hold a classroom discussion about this topic. I know that some already have. The School of Social Work is sponsoring a forum to help all MSU faculty who want to have this discussion in class to learn how to do it in an effective way. That said, I want to respect the faculty’s own feelings and potential triggers in this topic. And some faculty may be reluctant because they think their students don’t want to hear about it. I would encourage anyone who wants to discuss this in class to approach their professor and ask to do so. The professor can then decide what they are comfortable with.

We are being besieged by emails and messages. They don’t help. I want to move forward. We know better, now do better. ---AND --- How can I find out about other events like this one? I want to talk/process more.

Everyone handles crises like this in their own way. Some students need more engagement, others less.  My hope is to continue communicating as a path toward creating a more transparent culture. 


GOVERNANCE, (Board of Trustees, Bylaws, …)

What does a President do? Who are the various actors in upper administration?

At most universities, the President serves two roles. First, they are the CEO of the organization; the buck stops there. Second, they are primarily outward-facing. They spend most of their time on fundraising, legislative affairs, national-level policy, and these types of issues. Under the President are a set of Vice Presidents. The Provost is an Executive Vice President and is the senior academic officer of the University. They are in charge of the Deans, the faculty and the academic curriculum and the students’ education. The other Vice Presidents have particular domains. For example, the Vice President of Student Affairs and Services is responsible for non-academic student engagement (“outside the classroom”). The Vice President for Research is responsible for research grants, … A list of these various officials and their responsibilities at MSU can be found at:

What does the Board of Trustees do?

The trustees of Michigan State University are publicly elected by Michigan voters and have general supervision over the university and its funds. The board consists of eight members elected for eight-year terms. Two members are selected every two years by the people of Michigan in a statewide general election. Members serve without compensation. The Board delegates responsibility to the University's president, and through the president to officers and the faculty, and delegates appropriate authority and jurisdiction over matters for which they are held accountable by the Board (excerpted from

How is the student body represented to upper administration?

There are faculty and student liaisons to the Board, but they do not vote. There are four student liaisons to the Board of Trustees; their contact information can be found at

How can we change how the Board of Trustees/MSU operate to let students have a greater say?

While the Board of Trustees and its composition are determined by the Michigan state constitution, the Board’s Bylaws are determined by the Board itself, and can be found at: Note that Article 17 states:

These Bylaws may be amended or repealed at any meeting of the Board by an affirmative vote of a majority of the Board, provided that copies of such amendments or notices of repeal are submitted in writing to each member in advance of such meeting.

MSU’s Bylaws can be found at: Section 8 (on page 38) describes the process by which these bylaws can be amended.

How would we know about the Board of Trustees’ meetings? I only found out about them after they were held.

Board of Trustees meetings are posted on The current process to arrange to speak to the Board can be found at

What happens if the Board of Trustees is dissolved, or its members resign?

Board members are elected to eight-year terms, with two being on the ballot each election cycle. The two who would be up for re-election in November, 2018 have declared they will not run again. If a Board member resigns before their term is expired, the Governor of Michigan appoints a replacement who serves out their term.

Are there efforts to bring about a more organized effort to involve students/faculty/staff to advocate for MSU leadership changes?

I mostly know what you know. The Faculty Senate met on February 13 and passed a vote of no confidence in the Trustees. COGS has released a statement of no confidence in the Board as well, and called for the removal of Interim President Engler: ASMSU passed Bill 54-24, condemning the MSU Board of Trustees and Administration: I don’t know of official actions by staff organizations. I don’t know how much coordination there is among these various units on campus.