BTL has also endorsed another LGBTQ candidate for U of M Board of Regents. Find out more here.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated on Thursday, Sept. 13 to clarify a statement about Carter’s sexual harassment allegations.
As an openly lesbian candidate running for a spot on the Wayne State University Board of Governors, Aug. 25 is a big day for Sue Carter. That’s when the Democratic party will host its state nominating convention for one of the two open spots on WSU’s board, currently held by Diane Dunakiss (R) and appointed member David Nicholson. If nominated, Carter will become the second openly lesbian woman to run for statewide office in Michigan — the other being Dana Nessel who is running for Attorney General.
“I care a lot about universities,” Carter said. “I have a deep knowledge and understanding of how they operate. I taught for two years at Wayne — for one year as a full time and one year as an adjunct — so I appreciate the challenges faced by lecturers and adjunct faculty. So in a lot of ways, it’s a really good fit and I am delighted to be able to go forward with those thoughts in mind.”
A History with MSU
Those who have followed Carter over the past year will note that she originally planned to run for the MSU board of regents, but decided against it. Carter, an East Lansing resident who has also taught at MSU and formerly served as the school’s Faculty Athletic Representative, resigned from her position after feeling disheartened at MSU’s handling of the Larry Nassar affair.
“I was deeply disappointed that no other administrator or official at that point — at the moment I resigned in protest — had come forward and apologized to the survivors of Larry Nassar. I just found that to be untenable,” Carter said. “So, I dearly loved being faculty athletic representative. It mattered a lot to me. Students mattered a lot to me. Part of the best section of that job was relating to student-athletes, but I thought it was (best for) someone to step forward. And if I had to be the one, then so be it.”
Soon after her resignation, Carter had to face her own allegations of sexual harassment by former student Ellen Fedon-Keyt. Eventually, the university’s Office of Institutional Equity determined that Carter’s actions were not in violation of the school’s 1992 sexual harassment policy. According to a report by the Lansing State Journal, the OIE reported that there was “insufficient evidence” to determine a violation.
“The allegations were false and they were proven to be without substance,” Carter said. “It never feels good for any of us to be falsely accused of sexual harassment, but it really is a relief to be cleared. And to be cleared by my employer, my institution, my university. I have lots of deep loyalty to MSU. I came here 50 years ago in fall of 1968 as a freshman and I love this university.”
A Change of Plan
After looking at her options, Carter decided to choose the route in which she felt she could make the biggest difference.
“I had conversations and did a deeper analysis and appreciated that the race for the Michigan State University board is quite crowded,” Carter said. “There are 22 individuals, as I understand, seeking (nomination for MSU) and for Wayne State currently there are three individuals seeking a democratic nomination. At one level on the numbers, but more importantly I have two graduate degrees from Wayne State University and actually had sought the nomination two years ago. I was not successful then, but I believe that this time I can be.”
And according to Carter, there are a few reasons for that. First, she said that she is a prime candidate because of her knowledge of the surrounding area and experience living and working within Detroit. And secondly, she said she is excited to be a part of a university that makes research a priority.
“I lived in Detroit and around Detroit for 22 years, and Detroit is a city that’s on its ascendancy,” she said. “The motto of the Spirit of Detroit about rising from ashes really does fit, and Wayne gets to be part of that in a very real sense. So, that’s exciting. It’s also a research university and part of a group called the Urban 13 and these are outstanding universities located right in the heart of metropolitan areas and have research at their core.”
A Clear Outlook
Carter also said that if elected, she’ll come prepared with a multi-tiered plan that focuses on five priorities: accessibility, affordability, accountability, achievement and success. Carter said that both accessibility and affordability tie back to the state legislature.
“This, even though the state legislature, sadly, has continued to defund education and higher education in the state, still is a university for people of Michigan as well. It’s highly central to who we are,” Carter said. “We need to find ways to make sure that we hold responsibly the line on costs. There are going to be increases — much of our life our auto insurance goes up — but to make sure that those are responsible increases. And that we provide the means for those students who have less means and less opportunity financially to assist them.”
In terms of accountability, Carter said that her experiences at MSU really imprinted the importance of that value. She said that especially at the administrative level, accountability is something that Carter said she will work to maintain.
“It needs to be accountable to the people of Michigan. I look at something like the event with Larry Nassar and that concerns me. That concerns me a great deal,” Carter said. “So, how can we do better? Where did we go wrong? Because something clearly failed. That’s not OK. So, working on those.”
Carter also hopes to be accountable when it comes to maintaining a diversity-oriented campus.
“As a lesbian, I want to make sure that in an era of seeming less tolerance that everyone’s protected, and everyone has a right to thrive and grow,” Carter said. “That my orientation isn’t a barrier and isn’t a bludgeon to be used against us. Making sure that there’s room for all voices and respect for all voices and that (the board) functions as a team because, essentially, as with any board of directors, it’s primarily a policy and fiduciary responsibility.”
Carter said that this push for inclusion will be a great way to ensure the last two elements of her plan follow through.
“Wayne State has a different character in some ways (than MSU) of undergraduate students. That is that they are first generation and achievement becomes important,” she said. “Making sure that young men and women coming from families that don’t necessarily have college in their background have the tools to ultimately succeed. Those parts really excite me.”
For now, however, Carter is looking forward to the end of August. She said that if appointed to the WSU Board of Governors, above all else her priority will be upholding WSU’s dedication to knowledge.
“Knowledge is critical, how we disseminate it, how we treat it, and how we to go forward is really important,” Carter said. “I’m looking forward to that.”
For more information about the upcoming nominating convention, visit michigandems.com.