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MSU alumni director resigns, faces Title IX investigation

Scott Westerman is stepping down as MSU's Alumni Director.

Scott Westerman announced today he’s resigning as Michigan State University’s associate vice president for alumni relations and executive director of the MSU Alumni Association. While Westerman cited a desire to be near his grandchildren in Florida on his personal blog Tuesday, he’s also involved in an ongoing Title IX investigation, the university confirmed.  

"One of the realities of being a leader at MSU these days is that you're also a target and as some news outlets are reporting, I've been targeted," Westerman said on Facebook Tuesday. "It's not a police matter, I've been fully cooperating with the team looking into it and expect a positive outcome. Sadly, ours is a world where allegation and guilt are perceived to be interchangeable."  

Credit Facebook
Westerman's post on Facebook Tuesday.

While details about the complaint are unknown, Westerman says in an email that the investigation isn't a factor in his decision to leave MSU. 

"I was recently surprised to learn that I am the subject of an OIE inquiry," he says via email Tuesday. "It covers a brief period near the state of my tenure...and naturally, I am fully cooperating with investigators. I won't have further comment until their work is complete. With regard to our departure, we have been planning to return to Florida for some time. The inquiry was not a factor in our decision."

The Title IX complaint was received in February, according to MSU spokeswoman Emily Guerrant.

News of Westerman’s resignation and the investigation were first reported by the Detroit Free Press.

“After 8 years, 3 months and 17 days of living the Spartan Life, Colleen and I are headed back home to Florida,” Westerman said on his website. “…We have been blessed with two amazing grandchildren, one of whom came to us with the extra gene that is a marker for Down Syndrome. For some time, we’ve contemplated returning to Florida to play a larger role in their lives.

“With the conclusion of another school year, that time has come. I’ve reluctantly shared my intention to leave my role as the Executive Director of the MSU Alumni Association and will shortly be immersing myself again in the lives of those I love most.”

MSU’s Office of Institutional Equity, which is investigating Westserman, handles “all concerns at the university related to two MSU policies: the Anti-Discrimination Policy and the Policy on Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct,” according to the school’s website.

In his official resignation letter to Robert Groves, MSU's Vice President for Advancement, Westerman says he wants to "return to the private sector" after spending a week with his family in Florida. "Although I have not yet secured a situation, I've determined that it's time to prioritize family and would like to begin my next chapter as soon as practicable. I can wrap up my current projects...by April 30th." 

Westerman is the latest in a long string of school leaders to step down this year, along with former MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon, former Athletic Director Mark Hollis, and the university’s former general counsel, Bob Noto. Simon and Noto resigned after widespread criticism of MSU’s handling of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse case, and Hollis quit the same day ESPN released an investigation into the athletic department's handling of assault accusations against athletes. 

But the school's problems haven't stopped there. Survivors of Nassar's abuse and critics of the school's current administration say leadership at MSU continues to be tone deaf on the issue of sexual assault and harassment. Last week, Interim President John Engler said he "regrets" releasing "unnecessary details" about an alleged rape victim suing the school. At the same Board of Trustees meeting, Kaylee Lorincz, who was abused by Nassar, accused Engler of asking her to "give me a number" to settle her civil suit against the school, in a private meeting without her attorneys. 

In a blog post from February, Westerman appeared to address the Nassar case and fallout for the school. 

“Over the past weeks, I have communicated with hundreds of Michigan State University alumni in every corner of the world. Out of those conversations, two common themes have emerged: A loss of innocence and a renewal of resolve. We found it hard to believe that something like this could happen here. But it has. It has become part of our history and we must own that. The most important question now is, 'What will Spartans do?' We will forever hold the survivors, all survivors of sexual assault and relationship violence, in our hearts. We will look inward and do what we need to do to get our own houses in order, to make this a safer, more vigilant, more compassionate world."

This story was last updated Tuesday, April 17 at 4:27 pm. 

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health and the COVID-19 pandemic.
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