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Trustees respond to discussion of Stanley’s contract

September 13, 2022
<p>Trustee Rema Vassar speaks at the Michigan Democratic Party Spring Endorsement Convention in Detroit on April 9, 2022.</p>

Trustee Rema Vassar speaks at the Michigan Democratic Party Spring Endorsement Convention in Detroit on April 9, 2022.

Several MSU trustees have given their stance on the Board of Trustees’ contractual discussion with President Samuel L. Stanley Jr.

In a statement released Tuesday evening, trustee Rema Vassar said she is committed to doing her part as a trustee, “holding (herself) and others accountable while we grow, learn, and serve together.”

“I look forward to working with those seeking solutions to these and other issues for the betterment of MSU,” the statement said.

In an interview with the Detroit Free Press, Vassar said she and possibly other board members offered Stanley early retirement. This was not included in the statement released to The State News, but in a similar statement given to the Detroit Free Press, she said she has "not experienced a trusting relationship with the President."

"We await his response today," Vassar said. "A seamless separation that allows for a robust process inclusive of the Spartan community as we search for our next dynamic leader is in the best interest of the university."

While Vassar did not directly address the discussion of Stanley’s contract in her statement released Tuesday, she said she is “committed to the safety and well-being of the entire Spartan community and especially devoted to ensuring minoritized students thrive,” and believes her fellow trustees are as well.

Vassar’s statement said while the trustees don’t always agree on how to achieve fairness, equity and access, she has faith they can “come together in this moment.”

“Before taking Board action, we need to decide a path forward that speaks to our shared values,” the statement said. “We need to be committed to those values which include trust, and be unafraid to act, even when the correct action may not be the most popular and politically expedient. My hope is that we will establish a working relationship as we address issues of critical importance that threaten our institutional solvency and our legacy of leadership and positive change.”

Remarks from Stanley will come from the MSU Faculty Senate’s special meeting tonight at 7 p.m. Provost Teresa Woodruff and Faculty Senate Chairperson Karen Kelly-Blake are also scheduled to speak on the agenda.

Trustee Pat O’Keefe, in a statement given to The Detroit News, said “In late June, members of the Board inadvertently learned that the university may have filed a false and misleading Title IX compliance certificate for 2021 signed by the president and provided to the State of Michigan Budget Office and other regulatory agencies.”

O’Keefe said the concerns surrounding Stanley were “abuse of power and discretion.” According to O’Keefe, board members requested a “university-led internal audit investigation” around the document.

The audit showed “numerous deficiencies” and “the support for the certification was either non-existent or inadequate,” according to O’Keefe. He said board members then hired an outside legal firm to investigate the situation.

In a separate article from The Detroit News, a source not authorized to speak to the press said board chair Dianne Byrum and vice chair Dan Kelly asked Stanley to retire. Statements given by both Kelly and Byrum on Monday dispute this.

“This past Friday, Board Chair Dianne Byrum, Vice-Chair Dan Kelly, and President Stanley had a brief meeting,” Kelly’s statement said. “Contrary to recent media reports, at no time was the President threatened with termination or given an ultimatum regarding his employment.”

Byrum’s statement supported Stanley saying “President Stanley should be allowed to complete his service to MSU without undo interference by the Board.”

Byrum stated her opposition with any plan to end Stanley’s contract early.

“I take strong exception to the conduct by several MSU Board of Trustees who have sought to undermine and second guess President Stanley under the mistaken belief they are somehow better qualified to run the university,” the statement said. 

Trustee Melanie Foster also released a statement on Monday supporting Stanley.

“Unfortunately, there is discourse among the Trustees concerning the president’s performance,” the statement said. “For reasons I have just cited, I believe President Stanley should be allowed to complete his service at MSU per the terms of his contract.  Many faculty, university organizations  and students have written advocating their support and calling for Board transparency in this process.  The Board needs to listen to our constituents.”

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