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MSU president, board chair refuse to say if they support investigation into Tucker accuser leak

September 15, 2023
Michigan State Interim Vice President Teresa Woodruff speaking to the press regarding Football Head Coach Mel Tucker's suspension on September 10, 2023 at Spartan Stadium.
Michigan State Interim Vice President Teresa Woodruff speaking to the press regarding Football Head Coach Mel Tucker's suspension on September 10, 2023 at Spartan Stadium.

The leaders of MSU’s administration and governing board will not say whether they would support an investigation into who at MSU may have played a role in leaking the identity of the woman accusing football coach Mel Tucker of sexual harassment.

Brenda Tracy, the rape survivor and advocate who is accusing Tucker of harassing her while she was consulting for his team, said Tuesday she was forced to publicly come forward after someone gave her name to the media. Shortly after, MSU Trustee Dianne Byrum released a statement asking that the university “thoroughly investigate” the accusation.

Rema Vassar, the chair of MSU’s board, did not return calls and text messages from The State News throughout the week asking whether she would support an investigation.

MSU Interim President Teresa Woodruff declined to comment on Byrum’s demand through a spokesperson Friday.

Woodruff had scheduled an interview with The State News for Wednesday. Byrum released her statement minutes before the interview was set to start and Woodruff canceled

The decision to back out was “unrelated to the statement,” deputy MSU spokesperson Dan Olsen said. Woodruff had to “tend to other pressing matters” related to the Tucker situation, he said

MSU’s Office of Institutional Equity, which has investigated Tracy’s allegations and will decide whether Tucker violated university policy at a hearing in October, does not release the identities of accusers. But somehow, Tracy’s name was leaked to local media.

Elizabeth Abdnour, a former MSU Title IX investigator who now represents sexual violence survivors as a civil attorney, said that lack of confidentiality could be a chilling factor for people considering reporting other high-profile MSU figures.

“The idea that her identity could have been disclosed without her consent is very concerning,” Abdnour said. “If I were somebody who was thinking about reporting something at MSU, I would certainly be worried about that.”

In the statement calling for an investigation into the leak, Byrum raised similar concerns.

“We need to do everything in our power to ensure victims of sexual assault and abuse can come forward without fear or intimidation and have full confidence their identities and private information will be kept confidential," Byrum said in a statement.

Whether MSU will conduct an investigation into the leak isn’t the only unanswered question to arise from the scandal.

Tucker was suspended without pay Sunday hours after a USA Today report publicized Tracy’s accusations for the first time. But his supervisor, athletic director Alan Haller, has known that Tucker was under investigation since Tracy reported him in Dec. 2022.

At a press conference Sunday, Haller explained his decision to only suspend Tucker after the investigation went public, saying he had put “oversight measures” in place when he first learned of the accusation.

But Haller and MSU’s spokespeople have declined to say what those measures were.

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