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Michigan State University's Faculty Senate approves vote of no confidence in Board of Trustees

Michigan State University sign
Emma Winowiecki
Michigan Radio

Michigan State University's Faculty Senate overwhelmingly approved a vote of no confidence Tuesday in the school's Board of Trustees.

The no confidence resolution passed 55 to 4.

The resolution accuses the Board of inappropriately meddling in matters of academic administration because the Board hired an outside law firm, Quinn Emanuel, to investigate the administration's removal of Sanjay Gupta as dean of MSU's business school.

Gupta remains a faculty member at the business school with a current salary of $428,000.

The Faculty Senate resolution said the Board overstepped its authority by hiring an outside law firm, and that members of the Board "have continued to destabilize the University." It accuses the Board of intimidating faculty by hiring an outside law firm.

In a written statement Tuesday, the MSU Board stated, "While we understand some members of the community do not believe this is an appropriate review, we respectfully disagree."

The MSU Board cites sections of the state constitution and its own Bylaws and Policy Manual, arguing that the Gupta review falls within their mandates.

"Such a review is particularly important at this institution in light of Michigan States' long history with Title IX, and the need for all of us — trustees, administrators, faculty, staff and students alike — to grasp the scope of mandatory reporting obligations and compliance with University processes and procedures whenever allegations of misconduct arise."

Last week on October 5, MSU Provost Teresa Woodruff wrote the Board, protesting its directing its outside counsel to depose faculty, executive administrators, and internal legal counsel regarding Gupta's resignation from the deanship which followed the Office of Institutional Equity's finding that he failed to comply with mandatory reporting requirements in relation to an incident of sexual harassment by a school official.

"I must vigorously defend the rights of our faculty and staff to work independent of outside incursion and the right of the university to work through its rigorous processes for discipline without undue pressure on behalf of an individual," Woodruff wrote.

Ending her letter, Woodruff wrote, "These actions by the Board of Trustees are doing harm to the campus, harm to the reputation of MSU and harm to the process you seek to improve."

Also on October 5, in a letter to MSU Board Chair Diane Byrum, MSU President Samuel Stanley, Jr., M.D. wrote: "While I still don't believe this external review is needed, as I feel the university made the right decision, the administration is cooperating with the law firm by providing documents and materials requested on this matter. But it is also my duty to ensure that employees are protected from undue pressure and that the Title IX and OIE investigations still underway are not influenced. Please be advised that MSU employees will not be compelled to participate in Quinn Emanuel's review, and for those that do voluntarily participate, the university will offer legal counsel to those employees."

The chairperson of the Faculty Senate, Professor Karen Kelly-Blake, was unavailable for comment about the Tuesday Faculty Senate vote, and MSU president Stanley and Board Chair Byrum declined to comment.

Virginia Gordan has been a part-time reporter at Michigan Radio since fall 2013. She has a general beat covering news topics from across the state.