Monday, May 20, 2024

MSU trustee Rema Vassar resigns as board chair

March 3, 2024
Chairwoman Rema Vassar during the Board of Trustees meeting in the Hannah Administration Building on Oct. 27, 2023.
Chairwoman Rema Vassar during the Board of Trustees meeting in the Hannah Administration Building on Oct. 27, 2023.

Michigan State University trustee Rema Vassar has resigned from her position as board chair. 

"Throughout my career, I have been an advocate for education as an elixir to cure all that ails our society," Vassar wrote in a letter obtained by the Detroit News. "I have been and will always be especially dedicated to advocating for those who are marginalized, victimized, ignored, and suffering in educational spaces. This has been and will continue to be my focus and life’s work. Please accept my resignation as Chair of the Board of Trustees of Michigan State University, effective upon the naming of a new Chair. I have been honored to serve as Chairwoman, and I look forward to continuing to support the University’s land grant mission as a Trustee."

Her resignation comes two hours before a special board meeting will be held to discuss the results of a 63-page investigation into board chair impropriety that was released Wednesday. 

The report found that Vassar and Denno violated board bylaws and code of ethics by interfering in university investigations and lawsuits and using students to orchestrate “attacks” on colleagues, among other things.

Their actions have “created fissures that have weakened the governance structure of the University and encouraged and created openings for members of the MSU community to also circumvent the Administration and reporting protocols, by leveraging individual Board members to act on their behalf,” according to the report.

The investigation, conducted by the firm Miller & Chevalier, recommended Vassar and Denno be referred to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for corrective action under a law in the state constitution that gives the governor the right to remove members of boards of state universities from office. 

It also recommended that trustee Brianna Scott be censured for publicly releasing a letter of allegations against Vassar, which triggered the investigation in October 2023. 

Stacey LaRouche, press secretary for Whitmer, said Wednesday the report’s findings are “concerning.”

“The board needs to give this report a thorough review to ensure the university can move forward and grow,” LaRouche wrote in a text to The State News. “We will continue to monitor this situation closely."

The report’s findings

The Miller & Chevalier report found that Vassar violated board policies by:

  • accepting gifts from donors
  • interfering in negotiations of a NIL deal between MSU and the same donor
  • intervening in the release of the Nassar documents 
  • acting alone in negotiating the terms of a settlement with a former Broad College dean 
  • encouraging students to embarrass the interim president 
  • retaliating against Faculty Senate chair Jack Lipton.

Vassar, in a statement provided on behalf of her attorneys from Miller Law, said she does not agree that any board guidelines were violated.

“While she has not had an opportunity to examine the extensive Report of the Miller & Chevalier law firm in detail, Dr. Vassar is pleased that the investigation concluded that the most serious charges, including those raised by Trustee Brianna Scott, were unfounded,” Vassar’s lawyer, Kevin O’Shea, said. 

Vassar and MSU did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication.

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