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Faculty senate declares no confidence in the Board of Trustees

October 11, 2022
Faculty senate members vote during the meeting on Feb. 13, 2018 at the International Center. The faculty senate voted no confidence in the board.
Faculty senate members vote during the meeting on Feb. 13, 2018 at the International Center. The faculty senate voted no confidence in the board.

The MSU Faculty Senate declared no confidence in the Board of Trustees at their Oct. 11 meeting in a 55 to 4 vote. 

The resolution, introduced by Vice Chairperson Stephanie Anthony, stated that the Board of Trustees has continued to destabilize the university since initial concerns expressed by the senate.

The resolution also argued the trustees "compounded their intransigence" when they chose to retain a law firm to investigate the resignation of former Broad College of Business Dean Sanjay Gupta, following a mandatory reporting failure, which in itself was outside of administrative purview and in violation of the board's Code of Ethics. 

As cited by the resolution, another primary factor in the senate’s decision to pass the no confidence vote was the Oct. 6 vote of no confidence by the Associated Students of Michigan State University, or ASMSU. 

“(ASMSU’s) example of standing amid the storm evokes awe and admiration,” Chairperson Karen Kelly-Blake said. “... We must be willing to stand with our courageous and awe-inspiring students to demand that those elected to work for the good of this university … will do their job and their job alone. If they fail, then we must hold them accountable. If we fail, then the gross overreach, the encroachment and the boundary crossing will expand further and deeper into the belly of this university.” 

This vote came one month after press leaks surrounding the discussion of President Samuel L. Stanley Jr.'s contract.

Two days following the leaks, the faculty senate held an emergency meeting to discuss the reports. Then, the senate approved resolutions encouraging more transparency and for trustees to undergo professional development. However, despite a proposal for a no confidence vote, discussions at the meeting indicated the faculty senate was not ready to pass that resolution. 

The board later retained a lawyer to investigate Gupta's resignation. Stanley and the board have also spoken on the failure to correctly certify the 2021 Title IX reports

Remarks from administration

Stanley expressed his concerns regarding the board’s investigation of Gupta. He said the Office of Institutional Equity’s investigation should not be influenced or impacted by the board’s investigation.

He also said the university was cooperating with the outside firm and providing them with requested materials, but that no university employee will be required to participate in the external review. However, if employees choose to speak to the firm, MSU will provide them with legal counsel. 

Stanley then said since his appointment in 2019, the university has taken strides to improve its RVSM work on campus. Following Stanley’s remarks, Provost Teresa Woodruff spoke, reiterating her commitment to the university’s students and academics. 

Presentations from faculty 

The meeting also featured three presentations from faculty and staff members.

Presidential Advisor Dr. Rebecca Campbell shared a presentation that laid out major initiatives in MSU’s RVSM and Title IX work from 2019-2022.

Campbell walked through the improvements to RVSM services and prevention, policies and culture change and RVSM and Title IX investigations. She also discussed MSU’s higher-than-average number of RVSM reports, stating that data shows that MSU does not have more incidents of RVSM than other Big Ten institutions, but MSU does have significantly higher reporting rates due to the rigorous training and availability of resources provided by the university.

The next presentation was from General Counsel Brian Quinn who gave an overview of the Title IX certification process. He explained that the president and a board member are required by state law to review and certify reports on Title IX cases from each fiscal year. This year, to err on the side of caution, Stanley and the board re-reviewed the cases after finding that the cases had not been properly certified. 

Lastly, Senator Jack Lipton, who proposed the initial vote of no-confidence at the Sept. 13 meeting, gave a presentation about the board’s actions prior to the vote at the Oct. 11 meeting.

After providing a timeline for the events of the past month, Lipton said that the board had violated its Code of Ethics by failing to “avoid involvement in administrative matters not subject to the direct authority of the Board.” 

He also said the board had ignored an MSU bylaw that stated the appointment of a dean could be terminated at any time by resignation or action of the president upon the recommendation from the provost.

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Lipton cited an email from the Board of Trustees which had been sent to MSU faculty which stated that the board’s hiring of an outside firm was within their mandates to act on personnel matters. Lipton said if the board were to make this case, they could apply this logic to nearly any university matter. 

“The board is saying it can do whatever it wants regarding personnel matters if they're in the interest of the university according to the board,” Lipton said. “Does this mean direct investigations of whatever and whoever they want? … Does it mean minimizing or bypassing the president and the provost until they get someone personally that they like and want to work with? ... If they are able to dig down into the university and talk to individual faculty members or find anything to be a ‘matter of concern,’ then all of us are in danger.”

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