Tuesday, April 23, 2024

MSU trustees Vassar, Denno can still vote at meetings, but won’t receive perks

March 20, 2024
<p>MSU Interim President Woodruff alongside Trustee's Vassar and Scott listening to public comments during a Board of Trustees meeting, held at the Hannah Administration Building on Feb. 10, 2023.</p>

MSU Interim President Woodruff alongside Trustee's Vassar and Scott listening to public comments during a Board of Trustees meeting, held at the Hannah Administration Building on Feb. 10, 2023.

Photo by Jack Patton | The State News

The structure of Michigan State University’s Board of Trustees was upended on March 3, when the board voted to refer two of its own to the governor for potential removal and to strip them of their duties. 

Over two weeks since the historic, late-night Sunday vote, MSU now has information on precisely what that means.

While embattled trustees Rema Vassar and Dennis Denno can still attend meetings and vote, they’ll miss out on several perks, according to an MSU spokesperson.

These suspensions last until Dec. 31, 2024, when the board’s term ends

An outside investigation into board impropriety released Feb. 28 found that then-board chair Vassar and Denno violated board policies by interfering in university affairs and using student groups to retaliate against colleagues, among other things.

Investigators recommended Vassar and Denno be referred to the governor for potential removal — something the majority of the board voted to do days later, tacking on several additional corrective actions as well.

Along with referral to the governor, the board approved Vassar’s removal as liaison to the MSU and Henry Ford Health Steering Committee and Denno’s removal as chair of the board’s committee on Academic Affairs. 

Trustee Renee Knake-Jefferson took over Denno’s role as chair of academic affairs, while Dan Kelly is the new liaison to the MSU and Henry Ford Health Steering Committee.

The board also accepted Vassar’s resignation as board chair, which she announced hours before the vote. Kelly replaced her as board chair, while trustee Kelly Tebay is vice-chair.

The board barred Vassar and Denno from “participating in all board related activities,” excluding their duties as publicly elected officials.

But Vassar and Denno can still attend formal and informal meetings and vote, MSU spokesperson Mark Bullion said. That includes meetings for their previous committee assignments, although they've been stripped of their formal roles within them.

Vassar and Denno will no longer receive many of the official perks that come with being a trustee. Bullion said they “will not be provided tickets or be reimbursed for expenses to attend any games or events.”

They also won’t be reimbursed for any conference registration fees and travel expenses, Bullion said.

Vassar and Denno were also censured — as was Brianna Scott, who released a letter of allegations containing confidential university information which prompted the investigation, something investigators said violated board policies and warranted censure. Bullion said censure is nothing more than “a formal, public admonishment.”

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