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Whitmer sends letter to MSU board stressing importance of transparency, cooperation with leak investigation

October 26, 2023
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at President Biden's "Build Back Better" press event in Howell on Oct. 5, 2021.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at President Biden's "Build Back Better" press event in Howell on Oct. 5, 2021. —
Photo by Chloe Trofatter | The State News

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer sent a letter to the Michigan State University Board of Trustees responding to claims that board chair Rema Vassar did not comply with an outside investigation into the alleged leak of Brenda Tracy’s identity

Whitmer wrote that such civil rights investigations "should be treated with the highest level of care and sensitivity by everyone involved, including and especially those in leadership positions," and stressed the importance of cooperating with them

The letter also stated there must be "an unwavering commitment by all individuals who participate in the process to engage with total candor, full transparency, and complete cooperation." 

"Leaders at our public institutions must lead by example – not just in how we conduct ourselves in our daily pursuits but also in how we respond when challenges or problems arise," Whitmer wrote. "This is a moment to lead by example. The students at the university and the people of our state deserve nothing less."

However, she added that she is not taking a position on the veracity of the allegations, or what actions she may take in relation to a request for a trustee removal.

Whitmer also spoke on the issue at a luncheon for the Michigan Press Association this afternoon, saying trustees need to cooperate with MSU's investigation into Vassar's alleged conduct

“We need a strong commitment by trustees — commitment to candor and cooperation and complete transparency," Whitmer said. "This includes working with the investigation launched by the university's Audit, Risk, and Compliance Committee.”

MSU trustee Brianna Scott first called for Vassar’s removal in a letter sent to the board Sunday night, alleging she bullied colleagues, interfered in legal disputes and refused to hand over her phone for an investigation into who allegedly leaked the identity of Tracy, who accused fired football coach Mel Tucker of sexual harassment.

Vassar, in a statement released Monday night, said she wasn’t the only board member to not give up the contents of their phone to investigators

“To date, no Board member, including the three trustees manufacturing this distraction, has produced their phones for a forensic review, and that request is part of an ongoing discussion between the Board and Jones Day,” she wrote.

Vassar told WKAR she will not resign even if the MSU investigation into her behavior finds her guilty.

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