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MSU interim president Woodruff: Work with board chair is ‘challenging’

October 23, 2023
MSU Interim President Teresa K. Woodruff during an interview with The State News in her office at the Hannah Administration Building on Sept. 28, 2023.
MSU Interim President Teresa K. Woodruff during an interview with The State News in her office at the Hannah Administration Building on Sept. 28, 2023. —
Photo by Sonya Barlow | The State News

Michigan State University’s interim president Teresa Woodruff released a brief statement Monday afternoon amid allegations that she is being bullied and usurped by board chair Rema Vassar.

“As the university bylaws state, I serve to promote, support and protect the interests of Michigan State University,” Woodruff said in the statement. “As outlined in a recent trustee letter, these responsibilities have been challenging at times. Regardless of these matters, I have been unwavering in my support and dedicated work on behalf of our outstanding students, faculty, and staff as we collaboratively advance knowledge and transform lives.”

This comes after trustee Brianna Scott sent the board a letter demanding Vassar’s resignation over numerous allegations of misconduct, many of which described Vassar overstepping into the president's duties and “bullying” Woodruff “on a regular basis.”

Woodruff announced in August that she will not be seeking the permanent presidency but did not explain why.

Through a spokesperson, Woodruff declined to comment further Monday afternoon as she is at a conference out of state.

Scott said in the letter that Vassar requested Woodruff’s schedule and demanded that she also speak at each of her engagements. The letter says Vassar was late to many of the events, notably delaying a reception for student leaders by 90 minutes.

On Friday, Vassar hosted a donor dinner at Woodruff’s house but attempted to stop her from attending or speaking, according to emails obtained by The State News.

Woodruff’s predecessor, Samuel L. Stanley Jr., resigned last fall when longtime trustee Dianne Byrum was board's chair. He told The State News he grew frustrated by the board’s interference in the day-to-day business of the university.

Scott’s letter alleges after becoming chair in January, Vassar took that interference to a new extreme, meeting with City of Lansing officials this summer to “pitch moving university colleges and students” to a downtown Lansing site without the knowledge or consent of the full board or administration.

Lansing Mayor Andy Schor confirmed he had met with Vassar in July without the interim-president or provost.

In an interview with The State News, Schor described wide-ranging discussions about public-private partnerships and potential MSU real estate investments downtown, but said it was “preliminary.”

A person in the provost's office who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the meetings were “inappropriate” and interfered with their work.

“If board members are talking out of school, that can be problematic,” the person said. “Particularly when communication is not shared with those who are responsible for those areas, like the offices of the provost and president.”

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