Michigan State University’s top administrators motioned for a complete dismissal of a lawsuit from controversial former business school dean Sanjay Gupta, describing the suit as a “desperate, last-ditch plea for this court to take on the role of super-personnel department.”
Gupta’s suit alleges that seven MSU leaders defamed him in a presidential succession plot, with then Provost Teresa Woodruff ousting him for a mandatory reporting failure to best position herself to become the university president.
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 – argue that Gupta was not “defamed” by any legal definition, and broadly question his succession scheme theory, calling his allegations “as threadbare as they are incomprehensible.”
“What (Gupta) suggests is a ‘scheme’ to violate his rights and remove him as Dean amounts to little more than a series of appropriate business decisions … to recommend that (Gupta) resign his at-will position as Dean due to his mandatory reporting and leadership failures,” their motion says.
In March, MSU’s Board of Trustees released a $1.6 million independent investigation into Gupta’s removal, which found no evidence for or against the presidential succession theory.
MSU first announced Gupta’s departure from the dean’s office in an August 2022 statement describing 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.
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 defendants’ response argues that MSU’s policy on mandatory reporting makes no exceptions for incidents presumably reported by others, and calls the evidence for Gupta’s claim that he didn’t have to report – a 2017 third-party investigation into sexual violence handling in the MSU football team – a “bizarre” choice which references “outdated and inapplicable” MSU policy.
Today, Gupta 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 the interim-provost. His lawsuit sought reinstatement and financial compensation, demands the defendants broadly reject in their response.
Gupta’s legal representatives did not return requests for comment at time of publication.