MSU is Playing a Dangerous Game that is NOT Sustainable

MiketheGovernorHenne

Michigan State University is engaged in a dangerous game that may very well spell disaster for generations of future Spartans or potential students. As people turn their heads east to west across this great country of ours, it is more and more evident that we are in serious trouble economically. Look no further than the state of Michigan and the multi-billion dollar bailout for the auto industry. If MSU doesn’t change its focus from becoming an up and coming mega-elite research giant to a university that is accessible to those that want to build a bio-economy, the ramifications could be devastating for those Michiganders that want to remain close to home.

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Never before have I utilized a sports column to share my personal views. Never before have a felt a call to action that I believe is so necessary. Luckily for all of you that read our beloved site for sports content, I will be trying my best to tie this most political article back to revenue sports.  For those of you that want to relax in your La-Z-boy’s and let the satellite TV wash over you, stop reading this article now. If you have a vested interest in MSU, the future of the state of Michigan and the future MSU student, tune in.

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At this point, some of you are scratching your head. Where the heck is “The Governor” going with this one? Well, I must confess that I have a personal interest in the future of Michigan State. I love MSU and I am left agonizing over the false sense of security that Spartan Alums everywhere have gotten about our future and its leadership. As long as the football team is winning, than everything is right with the Spartan Nation.  As long as Tom Izzo delivers another Final Four banner to Breslin, life will be OK. This is nonsense. Like all of you, I am tickled that our football team is 9-3 with a New Year’s bowl game in the bag. I will be there January 1st. I love the national attention that basketball brings our proud university. Like the Romans who watched their heroes collide in the Coliseum, success on the football field and on the basketball court doesn’t sustain an economy or a society.

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You have probably heard the term landgrant university if you’ve attended Michigan State, but probably understand little about its meaning. This is at the very heart of this article’s political content. Every state in the US has a landgrant university to my knowledge. In the Big Ten, those schools are Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Purdue, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State. Landgrant universities came about as a result of the Morrill Act, hence the name of the beautiful building that graces north campus. I have even heard rumblings that Morrill Hall is up for demolition. This would be all too appropriate seeing that MSU is largely demolishing and distorting the meaning of a landgrant education.

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Justin Morrill was charged to write the very act that bridged a war-torn country and put the USA back on track to being a united power. The Morrill Act was written years before the conclusion of the civil war, but was not signed into law until numerous modifications were made. Abraham Lincoln needed to bring the country together after the fall of slavery and the conclusion of the civil war.  Lincoln understood that a fundamentally and economically united country needed to be strong in the areas of agriculture, natural resources and the areas of economics that directly revolve around the food and fiber system. When the civil war ended, Lincoln extended the Morrill Act to the former confederate states as a means of healing wounds and promoting education to as many Americans that wanted to further their learning. Access to education was seen as paramount for landgrant schools. It was and still is a major portion of the language that makes up landgrant university charters. The citizens of their respective states were to have an opportunity to receive a landgrant education.

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 MSU’s higher education annual budget is somewhere near $365 million, the largest budget for any college at MSU is the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.  In the truest sense, I am a product of this system. I studied Agricultural Education at Michigan State. My brother and my youngest sister have degrees in the same program. I so badly wanted to go to MSU that I applied the June before my senior year. I was so proud the day I was accepted.Â

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There is no question that Lou Anna Simon has done wonders to stabilize MSU’s revenue sports programs. She has two of America’s best coaches on campus in Izzo and Dantonio. Aside from the university administration’s savvy handling of athletics, which is largely due to Mark Hollis, the university is rewriting landgrant education. It will have disastrous consequences that will reach the balconies of Spartan Stadium and the rafters of the Breslin Center in years to come if a correction isn’t made. The university is not reinvesting its resources back into the state. More than half of all MSU and UM graduates are leaving the state when they graduate. Ten years from now Mark Dantonio will be a little more than sixty. Who is going to fill the stands for his Spartan teams? Who is going to pay for the next wave of luxury boxes?

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Michigan State University has a responsibility as the state’s landgrant university to invest its resources in the people of Michigan. This is not only a single man’s philosophy, but comes directly from the charter that gave birth to the school we root for each and every week. It is the people from Michigan that need diversified training and skills now more than ever. The state of Michigan touches 1/5 of the world’s fresh water. While western states like Arizona and California struggle to keep their crops watered, Michigan has the world’s most precious resource on three sides of it. Certainly the Santa Chevrolet hats look nice on TV during Spartan basketball games, it is looking less and less likely that GM will be doling out any jobs to MSU grads in the near future. The Michigan economy needs MSU to get its act together before it is too late. Need proof that things aren’t going as planned? How did the attendance look at Ford Field for a premier national clash between MSU and UNC?

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While Michigan State University builds a campus in Dubai, the state of Michigan is in economic shambles. No state is better poised than Michigan to take advantage of a well-positioned bio-economy. The areas of practical investment are food processing, alternative fuels, wind energy, electrical engineering, agriscience education, tourism and biological waste recycling.

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While most Michiganders consider automobiles the largest industry in Michigan, the reality will shock many. The agricultural industry is Michigan’s largest revenue stream. It is also one of the areas that have the biggest opportunity to grow with proper education of the Michigan population. I am not proposing that we solve Michigan’s economic woes by teaching people how to grow more soybeans. What I am proposing is that MSU find ways to help the “little-guy” get an education. I am not interested in rich oil barons sending their sons and daughters to MSU Dubai. I am interested in seeing Detroit turn around with a commitment to bioeconomy through education. I am not against MSU broadening its base; I am merely asking if the emphasis is being placed in the right places?

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While law schools look nice on the landscape, they don’t exactly provide the average rural student from Cass City an opportunity to go home and help sustain his local community. How many people from inner city Detroit would like a job that pays 25-30K? With all of the warehousing space and the access to shipping lanes, Detroit could be an economic power in food processing. Problem is that MSU doesn’t even have a program in food processing. This is particularly disgusting considering the diversified fruit and vegetable markets that continue to boom in our back yards.

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If you are reading this article and you have family and friends in the state of Michigan, ask yourself if MSU is serving those Michiganders that you are closest to? Have you heard any stories about friends or family that were turned away by MSU recently? Have any of these stories surprised you? Few MSU grads from the past would dispute that the entrance criteria for MSU has gotten tougher. Many will tell you based upon today’s criteria that they would not have gotten into MSU. I include myself as one of these people. Has MSU denied access to those that should receive a landgrant education? Has MSU denied access to people that would stay home and reinvest their education by creating jobs that would grow Michigan communities? The answer that I receive when talking to people is overwhelmingly yes. This is not only inconsistent with our landgrant charter; it is economically bad for the future of MSU.

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So while society is brainwashed into believing that higher standardized test scores and GPA’s result in a higher quality graduate, does it benefit the state of Michigan? Are MSU graduates today better prepared to deal with the problems of tomorrow more than they were ten or even twenty years ago? Are MSU grads any smarter or more capable than they were ten or twenty years ago? I don’t think so.Â

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MSU enrollment from out-of-state and international students is as high or higher than anytime in its history. These people are not sticking around when they finish their four or five years. Most of them will not be buying season tickets when they graduate.

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I have heard numerous people talk badly about Ohio State because they “let everyone in.” Anyone think that OSU is less prestigious than MSU? How are OSU’s sports teams year in and year out? The truth is that OSU abides by the very principles that gave the university life. Unlike MSU, Ohio State sees that access is the most important thing.

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The luxury suites in Spartan Stadium are fit for kings and queens. They are truly a marvel, a masterpiece built to showcase the very university that we have all grown to love so deeply. They are also used as a tool to raise money for the school, which is largely a positive thing. They are also used to purchase the very politics that sell the potential sons and daughters of Michigan State to the highest bidder.

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While research rules the nickels and dimes in today’s university education system, it does so at the expense of the very student that needs MSU the most. It is the student that has long been the backbone that has ensured the MSU spirit.  I have spoken with Trustee Donald Nugent about this matter on numerous occasions and done my best along with many others to offer solutions that could fix the very problem that has MSU looking more like the Maryland Terrapins and less like the Spartans. Am I an MSU fan through and through? The answer is clearly yes!!! I am willing to publish this very article without as much a single care for what it will do to my own personal reputation.

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Landgrant university access and education are something that I fundamentally believe is both important and necessary. So while many will wait to see what happens with this automaker bailout in the hopes that our state’s economic complexion changes, I will carry the torch that John Hannah believed was the fundamental right of Michigan residents.Â

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This holiday season, while you watch MSU run up and down the court and play on New Year’s Day, ask yourself this question. What does the slogan… from landgrant to world grant actually mean? Is it a campus in Dubai that MSU needs or more undergraduates educated in a future economy that promises to become Michigan’s most crucial overnight? 

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