MSU Trustees don't plan to reinstate swim and dive teams despite court ruling
The Michigan State University Board of Trustees Friday announced that the school's swim and dive program will not be reinstated in the near future, despite a federal district court ruling that cutting the program put the university in violation of Title IX, the federal law requiring equal athletic opportunities for men and women.
The board also heard calls for transparency from the school's business school community and received criticism over holding a ceremony in honor of controversial former President Lou Anna Simon during.
Athletes in MSU’s swim and dive program have been out of the pool since 2020, when the administration cancelled the program over financial and infrastructure issues.
Advocates have been campaigning for months at trustees meetings to have the program reinstated. There were signs of progress at the last meeting in October when Trustee Melanie Foster said Athletic Director Alan Haller would meet with the swimmers before the end of the month.
But Foster poured cold water on their hopes at Friday’s meeting when she said members of the board “do not see a viable path” in resolving the funding and facility concerns to bring back the program.
Sydney Kelly is a swimmer at Michigan State. She said the board’s delays in reinstating the program have hurt opportunities for students.
"I'm here to ask for the university ... to understand we are only here for four years of the university's long life and are rapidly running out of time to swim again," Kelly said. "That our presence on the team will drastically improve recruiting and allow us to be the bridge to the new team of future students. That my legacy at this university will mean nothing to me if I'm not allowed to swim again.”
Interim President Teresa Woodruff said she understands the team’s disappointment and has met with the students. Advocates have asked the administration to look into receiving alumni support to fund the program, and Woodruff said she's looking into identifying sources to finance the team's reinstatement.
A Title IX lawsuit against MSU in response to cutting the swim and dive programs will continue in January. The U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to take on the university's appeal in that case.
During the meeting's public comments, faculty and alumni of the Broad College of Business asked the board to share the findings of an investigation into the departure of former dean Sanjay Gupta.
Trustees hired the external firm Quinn Emanuel in August to look into Sanjay Gupta’s resignation following allegations that he failed to report misconduct. The move drew criticism from university officials. Former trustee Pat O'Keefe then resigned over concerns that transparency surrounding the dean wasn't being taken seriously.
Community members voiced their support for the inquiry at the meeting and asked that it be made public.
One alumnus of the business school read a message from entrepreneur and prominent donor Edward Minskoff, who argued Gupta should be reinstated as dean immediately. The former dean was in attendance at the meeting.
Business college faculty member Shawnee Vickery said releasing the report would enhance trust in the board and confirm its commitment to transparency.
“Releasing the report will allow our college and its varied stakeholders to fully understand what happened to cause us to lose a highly respected Dean,” Vickery said.
Some of the comments came with threats to withhold future support if the board does not release the report into Gupta's exit.
"Although I am only one person, don't underestimate the power of the College of Business alumni," said alumna Nancy Vella. "As business leaders, we will not stand idle."
Trustee chair Dianne Byrum said the investigation is still underway. She did not confirm if the board plans to release the report.
Community members also criticized the board for holding a ceremony in honor of controversial former President Lou Anna Simon.
Simon resigned as president in 2018 over her handling of the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal. Her contract includes an exit package worth more than $2 million dollars and a portrait ceremony in her honor.
The university is following through with this commitment, holding a private event at the Breslin Center on Monday.
Associated Students of MSU president Jo Kovach said the board is disrespecting survivors of sexual abuse by honoring Simon.
"I would love just once to be able to see that the MSU Board of Trustees is in the news and not have to worry about why," Kovach said. "I'm deeply disturbed by the actions taken by this board that not only harm the Sister Survivors further but let survivors on this campus know that you are not allies to us.”
Public commenters also criticized the staff for holding the event the week after finals and graduation, accusing administrators of doing so to make it harder to organize a protest.
Officials are divided on the event: trustees Dianne Byrum and Melanie Foster plan to attend, while other trustees said they would forego the invitation.
Interim President Teresa Woodruff says she plans to attend the ceremony but will also meet with demonstrators.