Michigan State President Samuel Stanley resigned—the fourth president to lead the university in four years.
‘Lost Confidence’ in Board
Michigan State University President Samuel Stanley sent shockwaves across the MSU community when he took to YouTube to announce his resignation.
In a blistering five-minute attack, Stanley criticized trustees, saying they overstepped their authority. “Like the Michigan State University Faculty Senate and Associated Students of Michigan State University, I have lost confidence in the current actions of the Board of Trustees,” he said.
Stanley had been in a standoff with the board of trustees over his handling of the departure of MSU’s former business school dean, who resigned in August after failing to report allegations of sexual harassment by a subordinate. Several board members expressed concern with how Stanley handled the Title IX reports and whether he complied with state law on certifying them. A university audit, which was requested by the board, found shortcomings in the process for certifying the reports. Stanley, however, argued that the board was responsible for the missteps.
Even though he had the backing of many prominent faculty members, students, and the president of the Association of American Universities—who said she was “appalled at reports of interference in MSU’s day-to-day operations by the university’s trustees”—Stanley abruptly decided to call it quits. His contract had been scheduled to run through 2024.
Revolving Door Presidency
The resignation of President Samuel Stanley marks the latest upheaval at Michigan State University. He is the fourth president to lead the university since the Lawrence Nassar sexual assault scandal in 2018.
Nassar, the doctor for both MSU and USA Gymnastics, was sentenced to what amounts to life in prison for sexually abusing girls and women under the guise of medical treatment. (See Paideia Times, Winter 2019.)
The day of Nassar’s sentencing, MSU’s president, Lou Anna K. Simon, resigned in disgrace for her handling of the case and narrowly avoided criminal charges herself.
Simon was replaced by interim president John Engler, a former governor of Michigan, who quickly had a scandal of his own. He resigned the following year after making comments about Nassar’s victims enjoying “the spotlight.”
Acting President Satish Udpa took over until Stanley took the helm in August 2019.
It’s unclear at what point the rift between Stanley and the board first emerged, but experts say there are typically three factors that lead to university presidents being pushed out: an expectations gap between members of the board and the president, performance issues, and the “new politics of trusteeship”—in other words, the political polarization that is increasingly common in many governing bodies.
Originally published by Paideia Times. Republished with permission.
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