Faculty, business school board members, students and donors criticized the Michigan State University Board of Trustees Friday morning for burying a report on the forced removal of business school dean Sanjay Gupta.
“Any cover-up of all the facts by the board will only result in a continuation of unethical behavior by those responsible and greater harm to this university,” 1979 alumna Nancy Vella said during the regularly scheduled meeting of the board. “How can you board members pretend nothing is wrong? Why don’t you try for transparency?”
The case is a board-ordered investigation by law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan into the forced removal of Gupta from his position as dean of the business college. Interim President Teresa Woodruff, then serving as provost, forced Gupta to resign after it was determined that he did not report sexual misconduct to the university’s Title IX investigative office.
After the investigation was launched, then-President Samuel Stanley and Woodruff defended their actions. Stanley left the university earlier this year, saying he did not trust the board and could not work with its members.
The investigation is now over. Board members were briefed Thursday behind closed doors on the results of the investigation, but told attorneys not to prepare anything in writing, making the report exempt from open records laws.
Board members did not comment on what was involved in the investigation. Board member Brianna Scott acknowledged that Gupta attended the board meeting. She said the board had received new information.
“We will act on that information and hopefully get things right,” she told Gupta during the meeting’s comment period.
That doesn’t sit well with the MSU community, which already has a lack of confidence in the university’s leadership dating back to the Larry Nassar scandal. At the time, board members fought the suggested reforms and refused to release thousands of pages of internal emails related to previous investigations into Nassar’s sexual misconduct.
That MSU era also came up during Friday’s meet. Several speakers noted that MSU is holding a private ceremony Monday to honor former president Lou Anna Simon with the unveiling of her official portrait.
This sends the wrong message to Nassar’s survivors, they said.
Simon was forced out because of his handling of reports that Nassar was abusing students, including investigations that freed Nassar before police arrested him. He was convicted of several counts of sexual abuse and is currently serving a lengthy prison term.
“Time and time again, MSU has broken trust with survivors, with the MSU community, with the public,” said MSU professor Ann Pegler-Gordon. “This culture of abuse, lack of accountability, lack of transparency continues. It has to stop.”
Administrator Scott said she supported Simon’s event and would not be attending. She noted that the portrait was part of Simon’s contract to leave the university.
Speaker after speaker said the cover-up of the Gupta report was just the same.
Blake Maday, who represents the business college’s student senate, told board members Friday that students want clear answers about what happened.
MSU’s college of business professor Shawnee Vickery read a letter signed by 20 college of business professors also calling for the investigation to be released.
“If the university is serious about improving processes and procedures and seeks to be seen as a world-class academic institution, full disclosure of these reports is critical,” the letter states. “This will help us continue to learn from the mistakes of the past and show that we are an institution that no longer hides from its shortcomings, but faces them.”
Contact David Jesse: 313-222-8851 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @reporterdavidj