Michigan State president Stanley quits in row with trustees

MSU’s third consecutive leader to be forced out over handling of sexual misconduct cases joined by students in protesting governing board overreach

October 14, 2022
Source: Michigan State University
Samuel Stanley

Michigan State University’s president, Samuel Stanley, has resigned, becoming MSU’s third consecutive leader to be forced out over questions of handling of sexual misconduct cases.

Professor Stanley – with backing from MSU’s faculty senate and student government on an increasingly divided campus – accused MSU’s board of trustees of getting overly engaged in the details of matters that the administration has been adequately handling.

“I cannot, in good conscience, continue to serve this board as constituted,” Professor Stanley said in a video message giving 90 days’ notice of his departure.

“It has been my privilege to serve this great institution and the students, faculty, staff and alumni who are the heart and soul of the university,” he said in a written note accompanying the video.

MSU’s president at the start of 2018, Lou Anna Simon, was pushed out over her management of and response to the Larry Nassar assaults, one of the biggest sexual abuse scandals in higher education.

A former Republican governor of Michigan, John Engler, following Professor Simon as interim president, quit after repeatedly making insensitive comments about Dr Nassar’s victims.

Professor Stanley was hired from Stony Brook University in New York. He has now spent months battling some trustees, primarily over his handling of a case from April in which the business school dean at the time, Sanjay Gupta, was said to have failed to report to the administration a case in which an intoxicated business school professional allegedly inappropriately touched a student while dancing at a college event.

The trustees also questioned general university compliance with new reporting requirements that arose from the Nassar case.

The board has hired an outside law firm to investigate issues in MSU’s Office of Institutional Equity, including the concerns related to Professor Gupta, who resigned in August.

Ahead of Professor Stanley’s departure, MSU’s student government unanimously approved a vote of no confidence in the board, calling on the trustees to back off and accusing them of creating a “hostile, chaotic and unsafe environment” on the campus.

Professor Stanley, in his video message, amplified that complaint. “The actions of the campus over the past month have shown the world that Michigan State University will not accept micromanagement by board members,” he said, “and that we will hold individuals, no matter what their rank, accountable for their action.”

The MSU board, in its own statement, thanked Professor Stanley and said it would share more details on the transition later. “President Stanley arrived at a difficult time and provided steady leadership to guide us forward while the entire world was experiencing severe disruption and uncertainty,” the board said.

Michigan’s current governor, Gretchen Whitmer, was among several statewide political leaders who expressed concern over Professor Stanley’s departure.

paul.basken@timeshighereducation.com

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