Hannah Administration Building, MSU | Susan J. Demas
Citing Title IX efforts he felt were mishandled, Pat O’Keefe, a Republican member of the Michigan State University Board of Trustees, resigned Wednesday.
In a letter to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, O’Keefe cited the investigation of MSU’s business school Dean Sanjay Gupta, who resigned in August.
“My fear is that the Board will bypass yet another opportunity for institutional transparency and never disclose the results of any internal or external reviews into the matter,” he wrote in the letter, which was obtained by the Detroit Free Press and copied to the board and university administrators.
“I hope University influencers and stakeholders demand answers regarding the termination of the former Business School Dean, as well as the Interim President selection process,” said O’Keefe.”My belief is the shadows of the University’s past will continue to linger if true change remains aspirational and the Board does not practice the transparency it seeks to promote.”
O’Keefe, who was elected in January 2021, was set to serve through 2028. His replacement will now be appointed by Whitmer. That will likely give Democrats a 7-1 majority on the board next year, after two Democrats won seats in the Nov. 8 election.
O’Keefe, who previously made headlines for opposing MSU’s mask mandate last year, angered faculty members when he was one of the university’s board members pushing for an independent investigation into Gupta’s departure, which was handled by former MSU President Samuel Stanley and then-Provost Teresa Woodruff.
Woodruff was named the interim president after Stanley resigned in October, citing a lack of confidence in the university’s trustees.
O’Keefe further alienated faculty with comments made at an Oct. 28 board meeting after they passed a no-confidence vote in the board’s leadership.
“This vote and resolution to drop our investigations is a little bit like the fox telling the farmer not to fix the locks on the henhouse,” O’Keefe said. “We are asked to accept that the processes have improved because the fox is eating only four chickens instead of eight. Both are unacceptable. I am tired of reading about the sexual transgressions of the faculty, which are like reading ‘50 Shades of Grey’ and are as long as ‘Gone with the Wind,’ without knowing what the outcomes are of such behavior.
A lack of transparency was also cited by another MSU trustee who resigned three years ago.
Nancy Schlichting stepped down from the board in October 2019, saying it was clear her commitment to an independent review of the Larry Nassar scandal was not shared by most other members of the board.
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