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MSU professors 'devastated' after President Stanley's resignation

October 13, 2022
President Stanley adjourns the board of trustees meeting on June 24, 2022.
President Stanley adjourns the board of trustees meeting on June 24, 2022.

Three MSU professors that co-authored an open letter of discontent with MSU’s Board of Trustees expressed displeasure with President Samuel L. Stanley Jr’s resignation notice.

Stanley announced his resignation in a video emailed to students, faculty and staff Thursday morning. 

“It has been my privilege to serve this great institution and the students, faculty, staff and alumni who are the heart and soul of the university,” the email read. Stanley’s resignation will be effective in 90 days.

The September letter from the professors called out the board, asking trustees for more transparency while they were in discussion over Stanley's contract. The letter also backed Stanley, showing support for his presidency.

Professor Felicia Wu of MSU’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition said she was devastated when she heard the news of Stanley’s resignation.

“I could not imagine a better president for our university,” Wu said.

She cited Stanley’s leadership in the wake of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal, the COVID-19 pandemic and his improvements to campus safety as examples of his professionalism and experience.

Professor Victor DiRita, of MSU’s Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, said the loss of Stanley as president is a huge disappointment for both Stanley and MSU. 

“He's made it very clear in his comments that this board is dysfunctional and he's unable to work with it,” DiRita said.

Physics and astronomy professor Raymond Brock said while he doesn’t think the university will lose faculty over the issue, it could be harder to fill executive management positions after Stanley’s resignation.

“How in the world is somebody going to want to come and be a part of the executive management of Michigan State University if this is what they're going to have to walk into? That’s a major concern now,” Brock said. “I don't see faculty not coming to Michigan State as a result of this, and I don't see faculty leaving as a result of this. But I'm sure tired of being embarrassed.”

Despite her disappointment in Stanley’s resignation, Wu said she doesn’t blame Stanley for resigning. She called his message to the university, in which Stanley said he has lost confidence in the Board of Trustees, “spot on.”

“I too have lost confidence in this Board of Trustees,” Wu said. “I think it’s a reasonable stance having lost confidence as the president, it makes sense that he would step down."

DiRita called Stanley’s announcement a “principled stand.” In an email sent later, DiRita said he found the President’s decision inspiring. 

“He’s a mensch,” DiRita said in the email, using a word that refers to a person of integrity and honor.

All three professors referenced an email sent to MSU faculty and staff by the board before a Faculty Senate meeting on Oct. 11. The faculty senate declared a vote of no confidence in the board at this meeting.

“It was sort of a preemptive defensive stance about what ‘a majority’ of the board thinks, no names attached to it,” Brock said.

Brock said the email was sent out nine minutes before the faculty senate meeting.

“It talked about their expansive authority and their final authority,” Wu said. “This letter came from a majority of trustees, and yet, they didn't sign their names. They didn't identify themselves. To say that it was from a majority implies that there was dissent. And therefore, why did this letter go out? At all?”

Wu said the board is not providing a unified voice and has not provided one since news of Stanley’s contract being under discussion surfaced. She also said that some faculty members feel anxious and concerned about the Board’s ability to influence decisions related to personnel.

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DiRita said he hopes Stanley’s decision will spur legislature to reconsider the process of becoming a trustee, suggesting trustees should be appointed rather than elected.

Wu agreed that the Board needs reform.

“I feel very strongly that Michigan needs to completely reform how the Board of Trustees is chosen at MSU,” Wu said.

Brock said the authors of the letter have not received any communication from the university, to his knowledge.

“The board just ignored it all, as far as I can tell,” Brock said.

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