EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The president of Michigan State University, who was hired in the wake of the Larry Nassar sexual assault scandal, acknowledged a “moment of uncertainty” on campus amid tension with the school’s governing board and some calls for his departure.
Samuel Stanley Jr., who has been president since 2019, defended his administration’s handling of the resignation of the business school dean during an appearance Tuesday night at the Faculty Senate.
He did not directly address his own job, though at least one Michigan State trustee said retirement has been raised with Stanley, despite two years remaining on his contract.
“I want to thank everyone for their messages of support and encouragement and to those who spoke in public supporting the provost and me,” Stanley told faculty leaders, referring to Michigan State’s chief academic officer.
“There are so many things swirling around right now… And in this moment of uncertainty my number one priority remains the health and safety of our community and fostering a culture of accountability,” Stanley said.
A resolution opposing efforts to remove Stanley was supported by 93% in the Faculty Senate.
Trustee Rema Vassar said Stanley’s retirement has been suggested.
“That conversation was a conversation between the board and President Stanley. That should not have been leaked,” she said.
The Michigan State board recently took the extraordinary step of hiring a law firm to investigate the departure of Sanjay Gupta, who resigned as business dean. Stanley said he was surprised.
He said there were “failures of leadership” related to Title IX, the federal law that bars sex discrimination in programs that receive federal aid.
Stanley was president of Stony Brook University in New York when he was hired three years ago at 50,000-student Michigan State.
The school was trying to recover from a scandal involving Nassar, a campus sports doctor, who was accused of sexually assaulting hundreds of women and girls, including Olympic gymnasts, at Michigan State, a local gymnastics club and USA Gymnastics. He pleaded guilty and is serving decades in prison.
Critics said Michigan State had missed opportunities to investigate complaints about Nassar. The school settled lawsuits for $500 million.
Lou Anna Simon resigned as president in 2018, just hours after Nassar was sentenced. Former Michigan Gov. John Engler was brought in as interim leader, but he lasted only a year.
Dianne Byrum, chairwoman of Michigan State’s governing board, has publicly defended Stanley.
Several trustees, she said, “have sought to undermine and second-guess President Stanley under the mistaken belief they are somehow better qualified to run the university.”