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Faculty leader, former board chair join calls for MSU board chair Vassar's resignation

October 22, 2023
Trustee Rema Vassar speaks at the Board of Trustees Meeting on Oct. 28, 2022.
Trustee Rema Vassar speaks at the Board of Trustees Meeting on Oct. 28, 2022.

Faculty senate chair Jack Lipton called for "ethics reforms" and the resignation of Michigan State University board chair Rema Vassar Sunday evening.

This comes hours after MSU trustee Brianna Scott sent the board a letter demanding Vassar’s resignation, describing a “fractured and contentious” board with Vassar single-handedly orchestrating numerous major university decisions without the knowledge or consent of other board members or interim-president — often leading to costly legal entanglements and public controversy.

“The apparent grift and privilege of Chair Vassar seems to have taken priority over the needs of students, faculty, and staff,” Lipton said in the statement. “I am hopeful Trustee Scott's revelations will result in ethics reform and a transparency-focused board that faithfully serves the MSU community and the people of Michigan.”

He said the statement is representative of his thoughts, not those of the full faculty senate, which has not met since Scott raised the allegations against Vassar.

Lipton joins former board chair and current trustee Dianne Byrum in calling for Vassar's resignation.

After reading Scott's letter Sunday evening, Byrum told The State News "I acknowledge the courage of Trustee Scott and I support her letter."

Vassar and the other members of the board did not immediately return calls from The State News seeking comment Sunday evening. Trustee Sandy Pierce did answer a call but ended the conversation saying she "didn't have time."

Trustee Dennis Denno released a statement Sunday night in support of Vassar, saying, "I'm disappointed some Trustees are grandstanding with false accusations due to a personal grievance. We're a world class university and a majority of the trustees are working to move MSU forward."

Since the release of Scott's letter, student groups and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer have split opinions on the controversy surrounding Vassar. 

Whitmer called the allegations "deeply concerning."

Emily Hoyumpa, president of MSU’s student government, ASMSU, said the group “does not tolerate bullying or harassment and truly hopes the board can overcome their problems for the betterment and stability of all spartans,” in a text to the State News. Hoyumpa did not answer if she thinks Vassar should resign.

Ty’Rianna Leslie, president of the Black Students’ Alliance, said she personally does not support Vassar’s removal, and doesn’t understand why Scott released the statement publicly. 

Leslie said Vassar, unlike other trustees, has “always been on the Black community’s side,” and she would need more proof of Scott’s allegations before addressing them.

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