The president of Michigan State University announced his resignation Thursday, apparently unable to fend off challenges by the school's governing board, three years after he was hired in the wake of the Larry Nassar sexual assault scandal.
Samuel Stanley Jr. said he has lost confidence in the Board of Trustees and can no longer serve in "good conscience.”
“I gave my contractually required 90-day notice of resignation,” Stanley said in a video announcement.
Since summer, Stanley has been under fire by some trustees, namely for the departure of the business school dean. He said Sanjay Gupta was removed because there were “failures of leadership” related to Title IX, the federal law that bars sex discrimination in programs that receive federal aid.
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But the Michigan State board recently took the extraordinary step of hiring a law firm to investigate Gupta's ouster. Some trustees in September also urged Stanley to step down, despite two years remaining on his contract.
In response, no-confidence votes against the board were approved by the Faculty Senate and Michigan State's student government.
“The actions of the campus over the past month have shown the world that Michigan State University will not accept micromanagement by board members of the operations of this great institution," Stanley said Thursday, “and that we will hold individuals, no matter what their rank, accountable for their actions.”
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Crain's Detroit Business, citing school records, reported in September that Gupta was accused of failing to disclose that a colleague in the business school may have inappropriately touched a student at an April end-of-year party. Gupta told Crain's that he believed steps to start an investigation had been taken.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat and Michigan State graduate, said she's concerned about Stanley's exit. University trustees are picked in statewide elections. Democrats have a 5-3 edge.
“They’re going to need to have great leadership. I thought they had great leadership and now, obviously, there will be a change there,” Whitmer said.
The board praised Stanley’s service but didn't address his criticism, saying in a brief statement that he provided leadership “while the entire world was experiencing severe disruption,” an apparent reference to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2019, Stanley was president of Stony Brook University in New York when he was hired at 50,000-student Michigan State in East Lansing, Michigan. Five of the eight trustees who supported him remain on the board.
The school was trying to recover from a scandal involving Nassar, a campus sports doctor, who was accused of sexually assaulting hundreds of women and girls, including Olympic gymnasts, at Michigan State, a local gymnastics club and USA Gymnastics. He pleaded guilty and is serving decades in prison.
Critics said Michigan State had missed opportunities to investigate complaints about Nassar. Before Stanley's arrival, the school settled lawsuits for $500 million.
“What happened at MSU will not be forgotten," Stanley said at his hiring. “Instead it will drive us every day to work together to build a campus culture of transparency, awareness, sensitivity, respect and prevention — a safe campus for all.”
Lou Anna Simon resigned as president in 2018, just hours after Nassar was sentenced. Former Michigan Gov. John Engler was brought in as interim leader, but he lasted only a year.
White reported from Detroit.