Survivors’ trust in MSU’s administration wavers as transparency is called to question

Taylor Truszkowski and Ayushya Gautam


Recent politics within Michigan State University’s administration has left the MSU community questioning its transparency. Among this community are survivors of one of the nation’s largest cases of sexual abuse, perpetrated by former MSU employee Larry Nassar.


At the crux of this controversy is the resignation of Sanjay Gupta, then Dean of the Broad College of Business. Gupta resigned on Aug. 12 after allegedly failing to follow Title IX regulations regarding mandatory reporting policies. His dismissal by Provost Teresa Woodruff, backed by President Stanley, has generated controversy within the Board of Trustees, which hired a law firm to investigate Gupta’s dismissal.


Confusion arose when the Detroit Free Press published a report claiming that the Board of Trustees had given University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. an ultimatum to either resign or face termination, in the aftermath of Gupta’s departure.


Trustee Pat O’Keefe provided a statement exclusively to The Detroit News on Sept. 13 stating that an internal audit into MSU’S Title IX compliance certificate showed “numerous deficiencies”. He said, “There was no plan advanced by the administration to rectify 2021 or determine how the board was going to comply with the 2022 certification in light of the numerous issues identified. This concerned the board.”


However, Stanley claims that he has “faithfully complied” with the Title IX certification process. “Contrary to information previously provided to me, in June of this year, I was notified that some of our board members may not have actually complied with their part of the state requirement,” he said. He also said an external consultant is assisting to improve their review processes. “We have been taking this issue seriously,” he said.


Differing accounts and seemingly contradictory statements by board members have furthered the confusion and called to question the board’s transparency among community members. The confusion has caused fear for those who belonged to the MSU community when the former administration failed to protect students from Nassar’s abuse. 


Members of the community of “sister survivors” of Nassar’s abuse spoke about their fears regarding transparency within MSU’s administration.


Oakland County attorney and survivor of Nassar’s abuse Meaghan Williams said, “As a survivor how do I know that anything has been done in the last five years that is going to improve the safety standards on campus.” 


Valerie von Frank, the mother of a survivor and founder of Parents of Sister Survivors Engage, said, “I think the only thing that we can do is really to call for transparency.” 


Williams said, “Five years ago this happened because there was no transparency. Five years ago everything was done behind the scenes.” 


“The University has had five years to get it together. At this point, if the OIE [Office of Institutional Equity] is not working properly and not conducting itself in an efficient fashion, it’s either they don’t care or it’s not their top priority,” said Williams. 


As a final message to Spartans, Williams said, “Having lived this for a very long time now, having grown up in Grand Ledge, having been a Spartan whether you want to or not—you live so close you’ve got to be a Spartan—I hope that MSU, and I hope that the board really remembers what they’re trying to do as board members. They’re trying to keep students safe.”




The board’s lack of transparency has also been condemned by faculty and student bodies. The Faculty Senate passed two resolutions at the meeting on Sept. 13. One expressed their disappointment at the lack of transparency by the board and called on them to “hire a professional governance firm … and undergo professional development.” The second opposed President Stanley’s removal or forced retirement until more information was provided and called for an investigation into the board’s actions.


The Associated Students of Michigan State University (ASMSU), the undergraduate student government, have also expressed their disappointment. “Many of us came to Michigan State University under a promise of progress, one in which transparency would be key to the rebuilding of trust,” they said in a statement on Sept. 12. “That promise has been broken continuously with decisions being made on behalf of students without their voices being heard.”