Tuesday, June 18, 2024

'Confidentiality does not mean that steps were not taken': MSU Interim President shares statement following Tucker controversy

September 11, 2023
Interim President, Teresa Woodruff speaks at the Fall welcome party at the MSU Broad Art Museum on Sept. 8, 2023.
Interim President, Teresa Woodruff speaks at the Fall welcome party at the MSU Broad Art Museum on Sept. 8, 2023.

On the afternoon of Monday, Sept. 11, Interim President Teresa Woodruff sent an email to the MSU community addressing the suspension of head football coach Mel Tucker and concerns from the community regarding MSU's actions

Yesterday morning, USA Today broke the news sexual assault prevention activist Brenda Tracy filed a Title IX report against Tucker in December 2022, after she claimed he made nonconsensual suggestive comments and masturbated over the phone without her consent. After public outcry, Athletic Director Alan Haller moved to suspend Tucker without pay yesterday afternoon

The eight-month delay between the report and the suspension outraged many students and members of the MSU community. In her email statement today, Woodruff wrote that MSU "stands unwavering in its commitment to advancing a culture of support and acting with integrity, safety and respect for all."

“With yesterday’s news, it might feel as if we have fallen backward toward the MSU of old,” Woodruff wrote in the email. “Let me be clear: we have not.”

Woodruff explained the reasoning for the gap in time between the initial investigation and Tucker's suspension. She wrote that the integrity of the investigation was dependent on confidentiality in the process, "while respecting and valuing the claimant’s and respondent’s right to share their stories." The email also stated that "confidentiality does not mean that steps were not taken."

"Our leaders are held to the highest standard and are expected to uphold institutional values," Woodruff wrote. "When an allegation of inappropriate behavior is made, the university’s processes and the people we entrust to carefully handle the matter are charged with ensuring the rights and privacy of affected individuals during the pendency of the matter." 

According to the email, MSU’s Office for Civil Rights immediately hired a third-party investigator. Meanwhile, Woodruff, Haller and the Board of Trustees became aware that a report had been made in late December. The report was submitted to the involved parties on July 25, after the third-party investigator concluded their evidence gathering

The investigator agreed for this case’s formal hearing to take place on Oct. 5 and 6, which will decide whether Tucker violated MSU policy

"From the outset, the university’s objective in the totality of this process has been and remains focused on conducting a fair, thorough and unbiased investigation and hearing," the email said. "Interim measures were considered and implemented throughout the process, including increased monitoring and restrictions on Mel Tucker’s activities."

Woodruff also said that Haller suspended Tucker without pay because "there have been new developments before the hearing, including details of acknowledged behavior."

“While this action was not taken lightly, it was necessary, appropriate and in support of the affected individuals and of the interests of our community,” Woodruff wrote

The email also includes a list of resources, including MSU’s Title IX Coordinator/Office’s public incident report and MSU’s Misconduct Hotline.

Three hours prior to Woodruff's email, Brenda Tracy’s sexual assault prevention non-profit, called Set The Expectation, posted a statement on X about the case.

“The news surrounding our founder, Brenda Tracy, highlights how necessary this work continues to be in our society,” the statement reads. “...If nothing else, the recent news reminds us that the work to eradicate sexual violence must continue if we ever hope to see progress. We continue to hope and we will continue to work.”

The statement encourages readers to stand alongside Brenda Tracy, saying “when we support one survivor, we show other survivors they are safe, too.”

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