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Whitmer asks MSU to investigate and 'take action' over board chair allegations

October 23, 2023
<p>Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the crowd during the 2023 Gubernatorial Inauguration on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, at the Michigan State Capitol.</p>

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the crowd during the 2023 Gubernatorial Inauguration on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, at the Michigan State Capitol.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer released a statement Monday morning responding to calls for the resignation of Michigan State University board chair Rema Vassar.

“The allegations in yesterday’s report are deeply concerning,” Whitmer said in the statement. “If accurate, it would be a huge breach of the public’s trust. This university has been rocked by scandal after scandal with no clear unified leadership or direction and tragically no accountability either. Right now, there are too many questions and not enough answers. The university owes it to students, alumni, and our entire state to get to the bottom of this and take appropriate action.”

This comes after 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.

If Vassar refuses to resign, Scott asks Whitmer to forcibly remove her from the board as described in the Michigan constitution.

The Whitmer spokesperson who distributed the statement did not return a message asking if the governor would be willing to remove Vassar at time of publication.

Since Scott’s letter was publicized Sunday evening, trustee Dennis Denno has come out in support of Vassar and trustee Dianne Byrum has asked her to resign.

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

Since the release of Scott's letter, MSU student groups have split opinions on the controversy surrounding Vassar.

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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