In a series of public blows to Michigan State University’s leadership since the Larry Nassar scandal prompted longtime president Lou Anna Simon to resign, the prominent research university has turned over five presidents in five years. Now, on the heels of another sexual harassment case with former head football coach Mel Tucker, MSU is seeking the resignation of an individual above the president: Board of Trustees Chair Rema Vassar.
In a seven-page letter obtained by MSU’s student newspaper, The State News, trustee member Brianna Scott outlined 10 violations committed by Vassar since January 2023, which she believes is worthy evidence for Vassar’s ousting. Scott prefaced the letter by illuminating Vassar’s perpetual patterns of bullying, carrying personal agendas and acting vindictive toward members who opposed her.
“It is with that responsibility in mind that I am calling for Dr. Vassar to resign from the Board of Trustees,” Scott wrote. “If she chooses not to do so, I call upon my fellow trustees to remove her as Chair and to refer her to the Governor for removal pursuant to MCL 168.293.”
When the board discovered that a particular member had publicly leaked the name of the woman who accused Mel Tucker of sexual harassment, Scott accused Vassar of not complying with a forensic review of her telephone. Additionally, Vassar placed a “heart” on a text message with a former board member who engaged in victim blaming and minimizing the claimant’s trauma, Scott wrote. In the same text exchange, she found Vassar guilty of planning to leverage the scandal to oust current interim president Teresa Woodruff.
Members speak out
Since Scott’s public decry of Vassar, university and community leaders have spoken up.
MSU Trustee Dan Kelly, chair of the board’s audit, risk and compliance committee, said the university’s general counsel’s office initiated an investigation into the matter, WKAR reports. Trustee Dianne Byrum and Faculty Senate Chair Jack Lipton have also called for Vassar’s resignation. Outside of the university, Sen. Debbie Stabenow has urged a change in leadership. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is also reviewing the matter and stated she will not withhold her power to remove a public board member if they display gross negligence, the Detroit Free Press reports.
My statement on MSU Board Chair Rema Vassar: pic.twitter.com/56ICTDnRnd
— Sen. Debbie Stabenow (@SenStabenow) October 24, 2023
However, trustee Dennis Denno is in support of Vassar. “I support Chair Rema Vassar, and I’m disappointed some Trustees are grandstanding with false accusations due to a personal grievance,” he said in a statement to The State News.