Michigan State’s president abruptly resigned after weeks of escalating conflict with the board

Michigan State University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. made the announcement Thursday after a weeklong dispute with the board of trustees over the dean’s resignation and handling of other matters. He had been the president of the state of Michigan since 2019.

“I, like the Michigan State University Faculty Senate and the Associated Students of Michigan State University, have lost confidence in the actions of the current Board of Trustees,” said Stanley video posted Thursday to announce his 90-day resignation, “and I cannot in good conscience continue to serve on this board in this capacity.”

Stanley’s decision to resign comes a week after both he and university provost Teresa K. Woodruff publicly criticized the elected board’s recent actions in strongly worded letters.

The board launched an external investigation into the circumstances surrounding the forced resignation of Eli Broad College of Business Dean Sanjay Gupta. After she failed to report allegations of sexual harassment by a subordinate, Gupta fired Woodruff in August, a decision Stanley supported.

But some board members questioned how the decision was made and decided to hire lawyers to conduct their own review. In their letters to trustees, Stanley and Woodruff condemned the board’s legal team for contacting a handful of faculty members for interviews.

Several board members also criticized Stanley over how he had handled campus reports of sexual misconduct and whether he had followed the new state law. The law requires Michigan State’s president and one board member to certify annually that they have reviewed all Title IX reports involving employees.

Stanley’s future at Michigan State has been in doubt since the year Detroit Free Press reported that some Michigan State board members were trying to oust him. This news found a surge of support from the campus community president. Nearly a hundred prominent professors signed a letter expressing their support for him.

Board members publicly debated whether Stanley should be forced to resign, and university officials confirmed that trustees discussed his contract, which was set to run through 2024.

Stanley is the third Michigan state president to resign since January 2018. Two presidents resigned in the wake of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal. Stanley previously served as president of Stony Brook University, part of the State University of New York system.

“The actions on campus over the past month have shown the world that Michigan State University will not accept micromanaging of the operations of this great institution by board members,” Stanley said in the video, “and that we will hold individuals, regardless of rank, accountable for their actions.”

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