Samuel Stanley Jr. has been the president of Michigan State University since 2019. (Courtesy/Michigan State University)
Samuel Stanley Jr. has been the president of Michigan State University since 2019. (Courtesy/Michigan State University)

EAST LANSING—The president of Michigan State University, who was hired in the wake of the Larry Nassar sexual assault scandal, acknowledged a “moment of uncertainty” on campus amid tension with the school’s governing board and some calls for his departure.

Samuel Stanley Jr., who has been the university president since 2019, defended his administration’s handling of the abrupt resignation of the business school dean, Sanjay Gupta, during an appearance Tuesday night at the Faculty Senate. He did not directly address his own job—leaving unanswered questions amid a whirlwind of controversy surrounding Gupta’s departure and Stanley’s leadership.

At least one Michigan State trustee said retirement has been raised with Stanley, despite two years remaining on his contract. The Detroit Free Press reported that the board gave Stanley until this week to resign before they take action to push him out of the presidency—reportedly over the handling of Title IX-related complaints that had reportedly pushed Gupta to suddenly resign from the job in August.

“I want to thank everyone for their messages of support and encouragement and to those who spoke in public supporting the provost and me,” Stanley said, referring to MSU’s chief academic officer. “There are so many things swirling around right now. … And in this moment of uncertainty my number one priority remains the health and safety of our community and fostering a culture of accountability.”

Trustee Rema Vassar said it was suggested to Stanley that he should retire, despite two years remaining on his contract, noting the details surfaced through a “leaked” conversation among board members.

The MSU board recently took the extraordinary step of hiring a law firm to investigate the departure of Sanjay Gupta, who resigned as business dean. Stanley said he was surprised.

He said there were “failures of leadership” related to Title IX, the federal law that bars sex discrimination in programs that receive federal aid.

Stanley was president of Stony Brook University in New York when he was hired three years ago at 50,000-student Michigan State.

The school was trying to recover from a scandal involving Nassar, a campus sports doctor, who was accused of sexually assaulting hundreds of women and girls, including Olympic gymnasts, at Michigan State, a local gymnastics club and USA Gymnastics. He pleaded guilty and is serving decades in prison.

Critics said Michigan State had missed opportunities to investigate complaints about Nassar. The school settled lawsuits for $500 million.

Lou Anna Simon resigned as president in 2018, just hours after Nassar was sentenced. Former Michigan Gov. John Engler was brought in as interim leader, but he lasted only a year.

Dianne Byrum, chairwoman of Michigan State’s governing board, has publicly defended Stanley.

Several trustees, she said, “have sought to undermine and second-guess President Stanley under the mistaken belief they are somehow better qualified to run the university.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.