MSU College Democrats have endorsed Justin Johnson for MSU Board of Trustees.

From MSU College Dems:

For students like us, the MSU Board of Trustee race is one of the most important on the ballot. Democrats across Michigan vote on the nominees, but the choice affects us, the students, the most. Today, we are happy to announce our endorsements for this crucial race. In the past months, we have had the opportunity to speak with nearly a dozen candidates. There are so many incredible individuals running with great ideas and great motives. Our endorsements reflect who we believe will do the best job as an advocate for students and who we believe know the university the best.

For the race, we endorse Justin Johnson and Kelly Tebay. These two candidates have shown a dedication to students, first and foremost, and essential understanding of the university’s processes. We believe these two candidates will stand up to other board members and President Engler when needed, but also understand how the university functions. Justin Johnson, for example, was the only candidate out of all of them that reached out to the Police Oversight Board to understand how policing is kept accountable on campus. These candidates have both the passion and knowledge to be excellent board members.

Last year, our previous executive board endorsed Dennis Denno for trustee. This endorsement was made before all the candidates announced their runs and, more importantly, before we had the opportunity to speak with all of them. Although we still think Dennis is an excellent candidate, we believe these two candidates are ones we need in this difficult moment for the university.

We hope you will join us at the Democratic nominating convention on August 25 and 26 to vote at Michigan State University.

Media can contact MSU College Democrats President, Eli Pales, for more information or to ask questions. He can be reached at or 303-999-9065.

Justin Johnson

for MSU Board of Trustees

My name is Justin Johnson and I’m running for MSU Board of Trustees.

I’m a father, a husband, a Spartan, and a third-generation business owner from Ionia County. When the full scale of the tragedy at Michigan State was revealed by an army of courageous women speaking in Ingham County Circuit Court, I was angered that the governing trustees of my school had abdicated their constitutional responsibilities to govern the school. I was angered that the administration was compounding the tragedy by taking an adversarial approach to survivors. I was angered
But I’m hopeful that we can build a culture of justice at Michigan State. I’m hopeful that we can create a system that builds faith in our process and eliminates barriers on the road to recovery for survivors of sexual violence. I pledge to use my position to fight for Justice alongside students, faculty, Michiganders, survivors, and their families.


Michigan State has a very narrow window in which we can earn back the trust of survivors, the MSU community, and the citizens of our state. We have made some steps forward with the appointment of a Chief Compliance Officer and hiring of more counseling staff. I have proposed three major initiatives in my first year as Trustee: establishing the Justice Committee, reforming MSUPD oversight, and establishing the Skilled Trades Extension.

First Day: The Justice Committee

The Trustee Justice Committee empowers the university effort to prevent and respond to sexual assault, abuse, and trafficking. The committee shall:
1. Develop training, procedures, and standards and monitor their efficacy
2. Issues public reports
3. Ensure adequate administrative support and funding

The committee is chaired by a Trustee and comprised of counseling professionals, undergrad and graduate student representatives, faculty, campus police, and an outside survivor group to maintain objectivity and transparency.

First Semester: The Oversight Board

It is wrong that the Chief of MSUPD reports directly to the University President. There is too great a risk of improper influence on the men and women of our campus police.

Under Public Act 120 of 1990, MSU currently has an 8-seat oversight board that responds to complaints against members of the police department. We propose the following reforms to ensure MSU Campus Police are effective, judicious, approachable, and free from administrative pressures:
1. Position the COB between Campus Police and Office of University President.
2. Broaden the scope of oversight to include procedures, policy, and reporting.
3. Establish a course as a prerequisite for student participation in the board and award additional credits for participation in the COB.

First Year: The Skilled Trades Extension

There are many skilled trades, from medical and dental technicians in our booming medical sector, to bakers and cooks, to riggers that will rebuild our roads and bridges.

But since the 2007 recession and a decade of stressing a four-year college degree as the only path for high school graduates, the state of Michigan faces a shortage of skilled trades workers.

We propose MSU develop a Skill Trades Extension Office that assists school districts across Michigan in planning and administering a Skilled Trades Curriculum. Participating high school students can count class-time as hours toward a career in the skilled trades or earn MSU credits if they decide to become Spartans. MSU has a role to play in the education of all Michigan kids, and MSU can lead in the revitalization of our state’s economy.


As a Trustee, I will aggressively push for full and unfettered cannabis research at MSU. The Agricultural Extension should support both the marijuana and industrial hemp industries in Michigan. Industrial hemp is an essential material in many industries: automotive, packaging, biofuel, fabric, foodstuffs, etc. Medicinal marijuana is a critical, effective alternative to opioids and should be studied and integrated in modern medical practices. The potential benefits of cannabis to our society and economy are too great to ignore.

Regarding recreational use of marijuana, MSU must comply with Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act Amendments of 1989. We are required to:

  1. Clearly state our Standards of Conduct that prohibit the use of “illicit” drugs
  2. Describe the applicable sanctions, including expulsion or referral for prosecution
  3. Provide treatment and counseling to students

The sanctions for violating standards of conduct must not include academic punishment or loss of scholarships/loans. MSU will adopt a do-less-harm approach by avoiding extra-institutional adjudication. As long as we can develop common-sense implementation of rules and metrics that seek to educate all students, staff and faculty of the dangers of dependency, we can protect students the professional and academic futures of Spartans while fulfilling our obligations to federal law.

Open Meetings and Office Hours

Michigan State must follow both the letter and spirit of the Open Meetings Act. Too many decisions are hammered out behind closed doors and simply voted on in public. The Board of Trustees recently announced and approved a requirement of all undergraduates to have health insurance and the school will loan money to students to buy a plan. There was ZERO detail in how this system will work. Student loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy proceedings; is money loaned to students to buy insurance considered a student loan? It’s this kind of impactful policy that must be debated in public. I believe that anything that will be voted on in a public board meeting must be posted publicly at least 30 days prior to the next meeting.

#ReclaimMSU and Reforming the Board

There is some discussion to reform the Board by changing the MI constitution and shortening term length or eliminating the position entirely. I reject those calls for the following reasons:

The single best way to reform the Board is to change the process to nominate trustees at the state party level. If we lower the bar to run, we can attract candidates beyond the usual wealthy self-dealers, old jocks, or politically connected people looking for a cushy retirement gig.

If we follow the guidelines of #ReclaimMSU and provide voting rights to students and faculty, that will go a long way in reforming how the board operates. I don’t necessarily believe a constitutional change is required. There is room in the language in the constitution to try adding seats with voting rights. Or create a “Special Seat” with voting rights via a change in the bylaws. The constitution only specifies that the President act ex officio, without voting rights; I am willing to challenge the status quo and get voting rights for students and faculty by any means necessary.

Contact Information


Paid for by Justin Johnson for MSU Board of Trustees

610 S. Nelson Street Greenville, MI 48839


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