EAST LANSING — A divided Michigan State University Board of Trustees Friday appointed a temporary leader of the Broad College of Business as members await results of an investigation into the events leading to the departure of former Dean Sanjay Gupta.
Trustees approved the appointment of Judith Whipple, interim associate dean for faculty and doctoral programs in the College of Business, to serve as interim dean by a 5-2 vote. Trustees Dan Kelly and Pat O’Keefe, both Republicans, voted against the appointment, and Trustee Rema Vassar, a Democrat, abstained. Democrats have a 5-3 majority on the board. Republican Melanie Foster voted for Whipple’s appointment.
MSU officials in an August statement said Gupta resigned on Aug. 12. In the statement provided at the time by Emily Guerrant, MSU spokesperson, officials cited concerns over Gupta’s leadership of the College of Business and his “failure to report under our mandatory reporting policies” as reasons that led to his resignation.
But in a separate Aug. 30 statement, Kelly said Gupta was removed from the position, a move that “was implemented by the provost of the university with the support of the president.” In that statement, which Kelly said was sent “on behalf of an overwhelming majority of the board members,” he said the board retained outside legal counsel to review decisions that led to Gupta’s departure.
Trustees who opposed Whipple’s appointment on Friday wanted the independent review completed before making any appointments to the position.
“I think that investigation should go on, it should be completed,” Kelly said. “I hope it will be completed very timely and I mean shortly. This decision could have been paused for that basis.”
Board Chairperson Dianne Byrum, who said she opposed the investigation, said it’s important someone is leading the college while the investigation continues.
“I do believe the Eli Broad College of Business needs an academic head and that it is very appropriate that we put an interim dean in place,” Byrum said.
Officials have said little about what led to Gupta’s removal beyond the university’s statement about the mandatory reporting policy.
According to the policy, unless identified as a confidential source, all university employees must report sexual harassment, sexual violence, sexual misconduct, stalking and relationship violence incidents if they observe it themselves or learn about it in their professional capacity, if it involves a member of the university community, and if it occurred at a university-sponsored event or on university property.
Employees are only required to report relationship violence and sexual misconduct if they became aware of it in their capacity as university employees, not in a personal capacity.
In a previous emailed statement, Gupta said he had been cooperating with an investigation conducted by the Office of Institutional Equity.
He argued “mandatory reporting obligations had been met.”
Not all board members supported the board’s move to seek outside counsel to look into the issue.
Byrum said she was not part of the “overwhelming majority” of board members who supported the statement announcing the board was seeking outside counsel. Deans are at-will employees, she said, and she does not believe the Board of Trustees should get involved in personnel issues on the academic side of the university.
Some trustees who supported hiring legal counsel expressed concerns over the cooperation of university officials with outside counsel. According to O’Keefe, the President Samuel Stanley, Jr.’s administration was asked for “certain things” that have not been received. He also slammed the lack of a due process hearing for Gupta, “a person who put his heart and soul into this university.”
“He was a beloved dean,” said Trustee Rema Vassar. “He bleeds green and white.”
Vassar said Friday she supported the investigation by the board. She said the university was also obligated to review the allegations against Guptas and assure it complied with relationship violence and sexual misconduct prevention policies.
The search for a permanent dean of the College of Business was to begin this fall, with officials expecting a new dean to be selected by July 2023. It’s unclear if the investigation will impact the search.
As of July 2021, Gupta was the sixth-highest paid university official, with a salary of $472,236. As interim dean, Whipple will receive a salary of $420,000.
Claims that Gupta failed to meet mandatory reporting rules were challenged by 21 senior professors in the College of Business who authored an Aug. 19 letter to the Board of Trustees.
The professors claimed “Dean Gupta has stated publicly that he did” meet those requirements. They also challenged an implication by Provost Teresa Woodruff that Gupta failed to create safe and respectful working environments in the college.
“Because this is inconsistent with all we have witnessed over the last seven years,” they wrote.
The professors also supported an investigation.
Contact Mark Johnson at 517-377-1026 or majohnson2@lsj.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ByMarkJohnson.


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