An investigation into impropriety within the Michigan State University Board of Trustees found that board chair Rema Vassar and trustee Dennis Denno “engaged in conduct that exceeds the scope of their authority.”
The 63-page report found that Vassar and Denno violated board bylaws and code of ethics by interfering in university investigations and lawsuits, encouraging personal attacks against Faculty Senate chair Jack Lipton and “encouraged student actions intended to embarrass and unsettle Interim President Woodruff.”
Their behavior “has created fissures that have weakened the governance structure of the University and encouraged and created openings for members of the MSU community to also circumvent the Administration and reporting protocols, by leveraging individual Board members to act on their behalf,” according to the report.
The review refers to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for corrective action under a law in the state constitution that gives the governor the right to remove members of boards of state universities from office.
Whitmer’s press secretary, Stacey LaRouche, called the investigation’s findings “concerning.”
“It was an important step forward for the Board of Trustees to commission these investigations to give students, staff, and alumni the transparency they deserve,” LaRouche said in a statement. “The board needs to give this report a thorough review to ensure the university can move forward and grow. We will continue to monitor this situation closely."
Trustee Dan Kelly, the chair of the Audit, Risk and Compliance Committee, sent the report to the MSU community this afternoon. In an accompanying message, Kelly wrote that the board is “reviewing the findings carefully.”
“The board takes our responsibility and governance seriously and is committed to upholding our code of ethics,” Kelly wrote.
Law firm Miller & Chevalier began the investigation Oct. 30, 2023, a week after MSU trustee Brianna Scott sent a letter to the board calling for Vassar’s removal. She alleged that Vassar bullied colleagues, interfered in sensitive legal disputes and violated the board’s code of ethics.
Specifically, Scott alleged Vassar: