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Former business dean sues interim president, top MSU officials

February 25, 2023
Former Broad College dean Sanjay Gupta sits in the audience during an MSU Board of Trustees meeting, held at the Hannah Administration Building on Feb. 10, 2023.
Former Broad College dean Sanjay Gupta sits in the audience during an MSU Board of Trustees meeting, held at the Hannah Administration Building on Feb. 10, 2023. —
Photo by Jack Patton | The State News

Michigan State University’s controversial former business school dean Sanjay Gupta has sued many of MSU’s current and former top officials for allegedly defaming him in a presidential succession plot.

The suit, filed Friday, Feb. 24, names seven defendants who all allegedly contributed to the defamation: interim president Teresa Woodruff, former president Samuel L. Stanley Jr., interim provost Thomas Jeitschko, Title IX coordinator Nicole Schmidtke, Title IX investigator (and senior coordinator) Allison Towe, interim associate provost Ann Austin and university spokesperson Emily Guerrant. The “defendants are sued both in their personal and official capacities.”

“Teresa Woodruff, then-Provost and now Interim President, orchestrated multiple violations of Gupta’s due process rights, tortiously interfered with his contract and business relationship with MSU, and defamed him in a power scheme to ensure that Gupta would not be named successor to outgoing former President Samuel Stanley, Jr., and to enhance Woodruff’s personal ambition to become President,” the suit said.

Gupta served as the dean of MSU’s business school from June 2015 until he was asked to resign in August 2022. Now, he serves as a professor at a salary of $549,744.36 — making him the highest paid member of the faculty at almost $50,000 more than interim-provost Thomas Jeitschko.

In the suit, Gupta is asking for reinstatement as dean of the business college, a ruling that affirms his due process and constitutional rights were violated, financial relief in attorney fees and "any additional equitable relief that appears appropriate at the time of judgment."

MSU first announced Gupta’s departure from the dean’s office in a statement released on Aug. 12, 2022, which described his exit as a voluntary resignation driven by his failure to comply with MSU’s mandated reporting policy. The incident Gupta failed to report occurred at an April 2022 business school gala he did not attend, where then-professor Charles Hadlock “got too drunk” and non-consensually touched and harassed multiple students, according to a finalized Office of Institutional Equity investigation report.

Since then, Gupta and his supporters have argued that while he was made aware of the incident the next day, his failure to report was inconsequential because the fellow deans who told him about it indicated that they would each be reporting it. The suit argues that Woodruff used that technical reporting failure to force Gupta out, removing a potential presidential contender to best position herself for the job.

In the lawsuit, Gupta alleges in a June 2022 performance review that he told Woodruff “if asked, he would be happy to serve upon the conclusion of then-president Stanley’s term.” It also said around that same time, the board told then-president Stanley that it had lost confidence in his administration, particularly regarding Title IX. The suit said Stanley was asked to provide potential successors and named both Woodruff and Gupta.

MSU’s Board of Trustees have also questioned the legitimacy of Gupta’s exit, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to investigate Gupta’s removal and the state of the university’s Title IX office. The Los Angeles-based law firm the board hired also provided “crisis management” public-relations consulting to the board.

The results of those investigations have been shrouded in secrecy, being presented to the board in closed-door meetings and delivered verbally to evade the Freedom of Information Act. But at its February meeting, the board announced it would release the findings as a single report when “complete” and promised what’s released will include the entirety of the firm’s findings.


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