Why Is This Load So Heavy?

Did Melanie Reinhold Foster ever encounter a housing or tuition increase she didn’t agree with?

Edward John Markey, the junior U. S. Senator from Massachusetts (since July 16th, 2013) has represented the Bay State in Congress since November 2nd, 1976. Adding in his time in the Massachusetts House of Representatives (starting January 3rd, 1973), he’s served a total of a little over 41-½ years in publicly-elected office. During this time, Markey has developed a reputation, supported by both his voting record and his own live-mic admission, of having never once seen a tax increase that he didn’t support. (The long-running backroom joke is that the surefire way to get Markey’s support on a bill that he’d otherwise oppose is to slip a tax increase into the final version of the bill.)

Similarly, a certain candidate for this summer’s convention nomination to a certain university governing board already has an 18-year history on the governing boards of Michigan’s Division I universities. Reviewing her history during that time, I have found no evidence whatsoever of a tuition or housing increase that she wouldn’t support. If she gets back on one of those boards this fall, then that particular habit is going to be a problem.



In the electioneering business, a candidate using a spin-and-blame defense (which specifically includes attacking the messenger) generally means only one thing, that the candidate in question has been caught with something out in the open that he wants to keep hidden. When the defense includes both openly trashing the messenger’s credibility and overtly threatening to run a smear campaign against the candidate’s opponent, then that’s a pretty solid indictor that what’s been uncovered is probably terminally damaging to the candidate’s campaign (or at least permanently undermines the campaign rhetoric talking points). Melanie Foster, or others operating on her behalf, have done both, which tells me that Foster-Gate is something that she really wants kept quiet. And that means that we ought to get busy digging into Foster-Gate installment # 3.

Foster-Gate Refresher . . . Quick And Dirty

I haven’t published anything specifically on this topic in the past couple of months, so for the new arrivals, please allow me a few paragraphs to bring you up to speed with where we are on Foster-Gate.

Back in mid-late February, Melanie Foster posted on her campaign twitter account, “Thank you 12th District GOP for your support in the straw poll.” In response, a certain regular contributor to this website questioned her credibility by way of drawing our attention to a 7 Action News investigative report that Ms. Foster probably wishes would just stay in the memory hole.

At about the same time, a couple of MSU alumni donors (who shall remain unnamed, but are politically connected to me in Central-West Michigan) approached me regarding the Brody Hall Renovation Project, and the glaring inconsistency between Foster’s campaign rhetoric of pushing back against union-favored Project Labor Agreements and her actual vote in December of 2008 to approve Brody Hall as a PLA-compliant project. The end result, a couple of weeks later, was “Fostering Distrust,” an opinion piece highlighting Melanie Foster’s fiduciary malfeasance while serving as a member of the Michigan State University Board of Trustees, specifically regarding her lame-duck junket to South Africa, and her support-by-vote of the largest publicly-funded Project Labor Agreement / Prevailing Wage Act construction project in university history.

In full damage control mode, Foster responded in the form of a campaign e-mail (“Setting the Record Straight”), her second attempt in three months to address the surfacing concerns regarding those aforementioned inconsistencies. Through it, she indirectly attacked me, called both my recounting of documented facts and the WXYZ-TV7 report a “smear,” stated I was affiliated with a candidate in her race (I’m not), was full of excuses for her actions, and blamed others, including an unidentified “faction from within our own party” that is interested in being “negative.” Frankly, it was a pretty pathetic spin-and-blame job, which had me convinced that she was hiding something, and paying top dollar to rebrand herself in hopes that the party’s grassroots base never seeks out the facts.

My follow-up article, “Rhetoric and Scatology,” was a detailed, paragraph-by-paragraph rebuttal of Foster’s crock-of-manure defense. I provided additional details on both the lame-duck South Africa boondoggle and the pro-union Brody Hall project. I also promised that I wasn’t finished with this . . . not by a long shot. Melanie’s response was another campaign puff piece taking a swipe at unions (“MSU Actively Promoting Unions”), likely a half-assed effort to reestablish her credibility as being a solid, fiscally conservative, union fighter.

So there you have it. Welcome to FosterGate (please enjoy the ride).

Obama Has It Right; Foster Got It Wrong

“Here’s the problem: At a time when higher education has never been more important, it’s also never been more expensive. Over the last three decades, the average tuition at a public university has more than tripled. … We are here today because we believe that in America, no hardworking young person should be priced out of a higher education. … But as long as college costs keep soaring, we can’t just keep throwing money at the problem. We’re going to have to initiate reforms from the colleges themselves. … Despite everything we’re doing, we’re still seeing too big a debt load on too many young people. … Americans now owe more on student loans than they do on credit cards. And the outrage here is that they’re just doing what they’ve been told they’re supposed to do.” – President Obama, June 9th, 2014

Now, I’ll freely admit that the quoted remarks are but a smidgen from the linked 21-minute address (that doesn’t substantively address the core problem), but you can bet your sweet bippy that everyone angling for a university board nomination at this summer’s state conventions will be citing that quote as “proof” that “even the president sees the need to keep student costs down” (and by heaven, if you nominate/elect them, then that’s exactly what they’ll do). And I can guarantee you that Melanie Foster will continue touting her 18-year record as a Trustee at two of Michigan’s Division I universities (MSU 1991-1992, CMU 1997-2004, MSU 2005-2012) as demonstrating the “proven conservative leadership” necessary to accomplish the president’s goal.

The problem with having a record is that said record can be reviewed, to see if her past conduct squares with her campaign rhetoric (perfectly acceptable under Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment). In doing so, we yet again catch her in a glaring inconsistency between rhetoric and reality.

Not surprisingly, the Michigan State University Board of Trustees has their own sub-site on the university’s website. Among the pages available on this sub-site are “Meetings” and “Decisions & News,” both publicly chronicling board activities going back to 2001. This means that the record of Foster’s most recent term-of-office on the MSU-BOT (Jan 2005 – Dec 2012) is documented and available for public review. Every single board vote regarding housing costs (typically in April) and tuition & fees (typically June-July) is right here for the world to see.

So, keeping in mind the disclaimer on the minutes that, “all actions taken were by unanimous vote of the Trustees present, unless otherwise noted,” what do we see regarding Trustee Melanie Reinhold Foster?

  • April 24, 2005: The board increased housing rates by 5.25% (board minutes) (press release) . . . According to the board minutes, Melanie Foster was present, and according to page 7 (Finance and Audit Committee – Residence Hall and University Apartment Rates), Foster voted to approve the recommendation.
  • July 21, 2005: The board increased tuition rates by 8.40% (board minutes) (press release) . . . According to the board minutes, Melanie Foster was present, and according to page 5 (Finance and Audit Committee – Guidelines for Development of the 2005-06 Budgets), Foster voted to approve the recommendation. Notably, Trustee Dorothy V. Gonzales is on the record as opposing the recommendation.
  • April 13, 2006: The board increased housing rates by 5.25% (board minutes) (press release) . . . According to the board minutes, Melanie Foster was present, and according to page 10 (Finance and Audit Committee – 2006-2007 Housing Rate Recommendation), Foster voted to approve the recommendation.
  • July 17, 2006: The board increased tuition rates by 5.90% (board minutes) (press release) . . . According to the board minutes, Melanie Foster was present, and according to page 6 (Finance and Audit Committee – Budget Guidelines for 2006-07), Foster voted to approve the recommendation.
  • April 13, 2007: The board increased housing rates by 5.25% (board minutes) (press release) . . . According to the board minutes, Melanie Foster was present, and according to page 10 (Finance and Audit Committee – 2007-08 Housing Rate Recommendations), Foster voted to approve the recommendation.
  • July 11, 2007: The board increased tuition rates by 9.60% (board minutes) (press release) . . . According to the board minutes, Melanie Foster was present, and according to page 4 (Finance and Audit Committee – 2007-08 Budget Development and Implementation), Foster voted to approve the recommendation.
  • April 18, 2008: The board increased housing rates by 5.25% (board minutes) (press release) . . . According to the board minutes, Melanie Foster was present, and according to page 7 (Finance and Audit Committee – 2008-09 Housing Rate Recommendations), Foster voted to approve the recommendation.
  • June 13,2008: The board increased tuition rates by 6.80% (board minutes) (press release) . . . According to the board minutes, Melanie Foster was present, and according to page 5 (Finance and Audit Committee – Budget Authorization for 2008-09), Foster voted to approve the recommendation.
  • April 24, 2009: The board increased housing rates by 5.25% (board minutes) (press release) . . . According to the board minutes, Melanie Foster was present, and according to page 7 (Finance and Audit Committee – 2009-10 Housing and Dining Rate Recommendations), Foster voted to approve the recommendation.
  • June 19, 2009: The board increased tuition rates by 5.20% (board minutes) (press release) . . . According to the board minutes, Melanie Foster was present, and according to page 8 (Finance and Audit Committee – Approval of Budget Development Guidelines), Foster voted to approve the recommendation.
  • April 16, 2010: The board increased housing rates by 5.10% (board minutes) (press release) . . . According to the board minutes, Melanie Foster was present, and according to page 6 (Finance and Audit Committee – 2010-11 Housing and Dining Rate Recommendations), Foster voted to approve the recommendation.
  • June 18, 2010: The board increased tuition rates by 2.50% (board minutes) (press release) . . . According to the board minutes, Melanie Foster was present, and according to page 4 (Finance and Audit Committee – 2010-11 Budget Development Guidelines), Foster voted to approve the recommendation. Notably, according to the board’s press release, the rate increase that had been originally approved was 4.90%, but was reconsidered due to difficult economic circumstances.
  • April 15, 2011: The board increased housing rates by 4.95% (board minutes) (press release) . . . According to the board minutes, Melanie Foster was present, and according to page 8 (Finance and Audit Committee – 2011-12 Housing and Dining Rate Recommendations), Foster voted to approve the recommendation.
  • June 17, 2011: The board increased tuition rates by 6.90% (board minutes) (press release) . . . According to the board minutes, Melanie Foster was present, and according to page 7 (Finance and Audit Committee – Approval of Budget Guidelines for 2011-12), Foster voted to approve the recommendation.
  • April 13, 2012: The board increased housing rates by 3.95% (board minutes) (press release) . . . According to the board minutes, Melanie Foster was present, and according to page 9 (Finance and Audit Committee – 2012-13 Housing and Dining Rate Recommendations), Foster voted to approve the recommendation.
  • June 22, 2012: The board increased tuition rates by 3.50% (board minutes) (press release) . . . According to the board minutes, Melanie Foster was present, and according to page 6 (Finance and Audit Committee – 2012-13 Budget Development Guidelines), Foster voted to approve the recommendation. Notably, Trustee Diann Woodard is on the record as opposing the recommendation.

Using the information contained in the press releases following each board decision, I’ve compiled a handy little chart for easy reference and to make it a bit easier to run the math. During the eight of Melanie Foster’s ten years on the Michigan State University Board of Trustees for which there is an easily available public record, tuition and fees for in-state undergraduates went up by an approximate average of 6.10% annually (a total increase of at least $4,354), and residential room and board went up by an approximate average of 5.03% annually (a total increase of at least $2,700). The per-credit-hour tuition for the typical in-state, lower division, undergraduate student increased by at least $134.80, during the eight years that Melanie Foster was a Trustee at Michigan State University, for which we have an easily available public record.

Total tuition and housing costs for the typical in-state, lower division, undergraduate student at Michigan State University increased by a minimum of $7,054.00 from 2005 to 2012. Melanie Foster, who alleges herself to be a “solid conservative voice” on the Board of Trustees, did not once – NOT ONCE – vote in dissent against even one penny of these increases, nor even once say so much as one word on the record to oppose these increases.

And if there’s anything on the record, anywhere, that would say otherwise regarding this timeframe (January 2005 – December 2012), then would someone please point it out to me, so that I can at least know what I missed?

Thinking All Of This Through

The online archive for the Central Michigan University Board of Trustees meeting minutes only goes back to 2009, and as I mentioned previously, the online meeting minutes archive for the Michigan State University Board of Trustees only goes back to 2001, so ten years of Melanie Foster’s tenure as a Trustee (MSU 1991-1992 & CMU 1997-2004) isn’t easily available for public review. For at least the time being, it’s an open question as to what we might find if we were to take the time to unearth those records from wherever they’re archived. Truthfully, I suspect that it won’t be any different from the eight years we already have on the record here. If Ms. Foster can prove differently, then I certainly invite her to do so (because I will be looking).

I reached out to Melanie Foster yesterday by telephone, and left a voicemail asking her to comment on what I’ve documented in this article. As of about five minutes ago, I still haven’t heard from her regarding any of the facts that I’ve presented here. The reader is free to draw his or her own conclusions as to what that means.

For what my opinion’s worth, Melanie Reinhold Foster’s campaign rhetoric is exactly that, political rhetoric that vanishes like so much vapor once she’s actually in office. Yet she wants the Michigan Republican grassroots base to nominate her for yet another eight years in an office where her track record already indicates that she’s part of the problem.

Why on earth would we do that?

Foster Is Not . . .

You Betcha! (10)Nuh Uh.(0)

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