Seven of Michigan State University’s top administrators — including interim president Teresa Woodruff — agreed today to file a single motion to dismiss controversial former business school dean Sanjay Gupta’s lawsuit, which alleges they defamed him in a presidential succession plot.
They will have to file their response by May 22, according to the agreement.
The defendants — Woodruff, former president Samuel L. Stanley Jr., interim provost Thomas Jeitschko, Title IX coordinator Nicole Schmidtke, Title IX investigator Allison Towe, interim associate provost Ann Austin and university spokesperson Emily Guerrant — were sued both in their personal and official capacities.
The lawsuit alleges that Woodruff’s decision to remove Gupta from his dean position for a mandatory reporting failure was part of 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.”
Woodruff and her alleged co-conspirators are yet to publicly respond to the accusation; she declined to answer questions about it at a recent press availability.
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.
At the board's April meeting, the first one since the report's release, faculty and alumni within the business college spoke in support of Gupta, while elected representatives for students and faculty heavily criticized him and the report itself.
Jo Kovach, the president of MSU’s undergraduate student government said her organization “stands with interim president Woodruff’s decision.”
“Deans should absolutely be held to a higher standard,” Kovach said. “If my entire organization of undergraduate students understands mandatory reporting, and consistently does report issues we hear about, no matter if we know someone else already has, a dean should be able to do the same.”
Kovach also questioned if the recommendations yielded by the firm were worth that $1.6 million fee from the firm. Saying it felt like a “slap in the face” to read “many of the recommendations that survivors have been asking for for years” at such a cost to the university.
Karen-Kelly Blake, chair of both the Faculty Senate and University Steering Committee, also questioned the investigation’s cost.
“The report confirms what was already clear, an at-will employee violated policy, was asked to resign, and resigned,” Kelly-Blake said. “Spending $1.6 million ... investigating an at-will employee’s resignation is damaging the university’s reputation and inconsistent with the trustee’s fiduciary duty.”
Kelly-Blake also expressed agreement with Woodruff’s decision, saying that “those entrusted with leadership positions, not only follow policies, like mandatory reporting, but exhibit good judgment.”