Monday, July 6, 2020

MSU Museum director resigns after research misconduct allegations from December

June 30, 2020
<p>A sign for the MSU Museum photographed on Feb. 20, 2020.</p>

A sign for the MSU Museum photographed on Feb. 20, 2020.

Photo by Alyte Katilius | The State News

Michigan State University Museum Director Mark Auslander resigned from his position Tuesday after the Research Integrity Office found him guilty of research misconduct and plagiarism in December 2019 and an ensuing lawsuit against the university in March.

Museum staff were notified in an email from Associate Provost for University Collections and Arts Initiatives Judith Stoddart on June 23 that Auslander was resigning effective immediately.

Dean of University Libraries Joseph Salem will continue to serve as the museum's director until further notice.

Stoddart said she will be in touch with staff in the future with updates concerning the director position.

He had previously received a one-month paid suspension in February for committing research misconduct and plagiarism while working on the repatriation of a Bolivian mummy. 

The reasoning behind his suspension was not specified, but it was assumed to be in relation to alleged plagiarism.

Auslander's case involved years of alleged misbehavior. One of the main events involved a repatriation ceremony in Washington, D.C., for the relic and an official letter Auslander wrote that published his ill-gotten work. 

A committee at the museum determined that he misappropriated the work of other scholars, fabricated data and mishandled work with the 500-year-old Bolivian mummy. 

At the time of this case, anthropology professor William Lovis said he was concerned about Auslander’s actions shortly after he took the position in 2017. Lovis said that Auslander had been meddling in his work, especially with the mummy repatriation, which means returning the relic to its original country, in this case Bolivia. 

Lovis also said Auslander made him pay for a trip to the repatriation ceremony held in Washington, D.C., and invited others not involved with the project to watch while Lovis stood on the sidelines recording the ceremony.

In March, Auslander filed a lawsuit against MSU and three people alleging that violated whistleblower protections after he revealed decades of financial mismanagement.

He sought more than $25,000 in damages for an alleged violation of the Michigan Whistleblowers’ Protection Act, conspiracy to commit retaliatory discharge and intentional infliction of emotional distress. 

The lawsuit said Auslander was suspended for revealing said financial mismanagement from former MSU Museum Director Kurt Dewhurst and his wife, MSU Museum Curator of Folk Arts Marsha MacDowell.

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