Whitmer calls for transparency in letter to feuding MSU board ⋆
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday sent a letter to the Michigan State University Board of Trustees in which she called for “total candor, full transparency, and complete cooperation” in regards to allegations leveled against board Chair Rema Vassar.
On Sunday, Trustee Brianna Scott called on Vassar to be removed from her position, saying she had acted unethically and outside her scope as chair, including that she had failed to cooperate with an investigation about who leaked the name to the media of Brenda Tracy.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer outlines her fall legislative priorities during a “What’s Next Address” in Lansing on Aug. 30, 2023. (Andrew Roth/)
Both Scott and Vassar are Democrats, as is Whitmer.
Tracy accused former Head Football Coach Mel Tucker of making sexual comments and masturbating on a phone call with her in 2022, which a report issued Wednesday by the university confirmed.
Vassar has refuted Scott’s accusations, calling them “fabrications, misstatements, innuendo, and untruths,” and says she has no intention of stepping down.
In her letter to the trustees, Whitmer didn’t choose sides and emphasized that the issues that had been raised needed to be resolved.
“Without taking a position on the veracity of the allegations, or what actions I might take in relation to a request for removal, I wish to stress the importance that all trustees at the university fully cooperate with the Jones Day investigation into alleged breaches of confidentiality related to the investigation of former coach Mel Tucker, and the investigation by the university’s Office of Audit, Risk and Compliance in response to Trustee Scott’s letter,” said Whitmer.
Board of Trustees members are nominated by political parties, appear on the statewide ballot and are elected to eight-year terms. The same process is used at Michigan’s other two major research universities, Wayne State University and the University of Michigan.
Under the Michigan constitution, governors have the power to remove members for “gross neglect of duty or for corrupt conduct in office, or for any other misfeasance or malfeasance therein, any elective or appointive state officer, except legislative or judicial, and shall report the reasons for such removal or suspension to the legislature.”
The governor added that civil rights investigations, “should be treated with the highest level of care and sensitivity by everyone involved,” most especially by those in leadership positions.
“There must be an unwavering commitment by all individuals who participate in the process to engage with total candor, full transparency, and complete cooperation,” she said. “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. This is a moment to lead by example. The students at the university and the people of our state deserve nothing less.”
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This is just the latest scandal to rock the East Lansing school, which continues to make national headlines over the Tucker firing, as well as continued criticism over its handling of the forced resignation last year of the business school’s dean and the failure to release documents related to the university’s investigation of disgraced former MSU doctor and serial pedophile Larry Nassar.
Whitmer alluded to the string of controversies in a statement Monday, reported by the Associated Press, saying the university had “no clear unified leadership or direction and tragically no accountability either,” and that it owed it to students, alumni and the entire state to rectify the situation.
She closed out her letter Thursday with the same theme.
“As a proud, two-time Spartan, former Ingham County Prosecutor, mom of two college students and the governor of this state, I will continue to monitor this situation closely,” she wrote.
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authored by Jon King
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