Whitmer criticizes MSU for ‘scandal after scandal,’ leadership woes

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks during a Clinton Global Initiative meeting on Sept. 19 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for Clinton Global Initiative)

By Associated Press

October 24, 2023

EAST LANSING—Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ripped into Michigan State University on Monday, accusing the school of “no clear unified leadership” amid rancor on the governing board and other unflattering incidents.

Whitmer’s statement came after two trustees over the weekend said they would support the ouster of board chair Rema Vassar.

Separately, MSU apologized after an image of Adolf Hitler was displayed on the scoreboard before the Michigan-MSU football game Saturday night. Officials said it was part of a quiz by an outside contractor that provides pregame content.

MSU also is dealing with fallout from the firing of football coach Mel Tucker who was accused of sexually harassing a woman over the phone. Some critics say the school should have acted months ago.

The latest turmoil involves MSU’s governing board. Trustee Brianna Scott accused Vassar of “bullying” other trustees in her role as chair and unilaterally trying to negotiate a settlement with a dean who was forced out in 2022.

Scott said Vassar has not agreed to have her phone examined to determine if a trustee leaked the name of Tucker’s accuser to former trustees.

“This university has been rocked by scandal after scandal with no clear unified leadership or direction and tragically no accountability either,” Whitmer, a Democrat and MSU graduate, said in a statement. “Right now, there are too many questions and not enough answers. The university owes it to students, alumni and our entire state to get to the bottom of this and take appropriate action.”

Later, at an event in Grand Rapids, Whitmer acknowledged that she could remove Vassar from office under certain conditions.

An email seeking comment was sent to Vassar, a Democrat, who is a professor at Wayne State University in Detroit. Voters elected her to MSU’s board in 2020.

MSU’s leadership has been in a state of flux. Samuel Stanley Jr. quit as president a year ago because of what he considered to be meddling by trustees. Teresa Woodruff, who serves as interim president, said she has dropped out of consideration for the permanent job.

She is MSU’s fourth leader since Lou Anna Simon quit in 2018 in the wake of the Larry Nassar scandal. Nassar was a campus doctor who sexually assaulted athletes, mostly females who were gymnasts.

READ MORE: MSU board of trustees member accuses chair of grifting, ethical violations, and plotting

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