Sept. 11, 2023: Our commitment

Dear Spartans,

A year ago, I asked each of you to “look upward” to find strength, confidence and Spartan pride. With yesterday’s news, it might feel as if we have fallen backward toward the MSU of old. Let me be clear: we have not. The MSU of today stands unwavering in its commitment to advancing a culture of support and acting with integrity, safety and respect for all. It is daily work. And I know that policy only works when people trust in the system. I want to speak directly with you about the suspension of Mel Tucker amid an active and ongoing sexual harassment/misconduct complaint resolution process.

Our leaders are held to the highest standard and are expected to uphold institutional values. When an allegation of inappropriate behavior is made, the university’s processes and the people we entrust to carefully handle the matter are charged with ensuring the rights and privacy of affected individuals during the pendency of the matter.

It is natural for those who care deeply about MSU to have questions about the process and whether appropriate steps have been taken. During ongoing investigations like this, we may not be able to answer every question in detail. We do, however, want to share what we can and emphasize that the MSU of today has clear policies and procedures for addressing misconduct allegations.

Our process
Upon being contacted by the claimant regarding Mel Tucker, MSU’s Office for Civil Rights immediately commenced a review and subsequent investigation, per university protocol, using a third-party investigator. Vice President and Director of Athletics Alan Haller, members of the Board of Trustees and I were made aware in late December that there was a complaint. Upon the external investigator concluding their evidence gathering, their report was submitted to the parties of the case on July 25. In these cases, the investigator does not make findings or determinations, but instead refers the matter to a third-party resolution officer to hold a hearing. That formal hearing will occur on Oct. 5 and 6 – dates mutually agreed upon by the claimant, respondent and third-party resolution officer. This case is ongoing and will not conclude until there is a hearing decision and any potential appeals are completed.

From the outset, the university’s objective in the totality of this process has been and remains focused on conducting a fair, thorough and unbiased investigation and hearing. Interim measures were considered and implemented throughout the process, including increased monitoring and restrictions on Mel Tucker’s activities.

Our guiding principles are equity in process and confidentiality for all involved to protect the integrity of the investigation, while respecting and valuing the claimant’s and respondent’s right to share their stories. Throughout this process, we regularly evaluate the balance of privacy, safety and impact on the community. Confidentiality does not mean that steps were not taken.

In all cases, claimants and respondents are provided with a deliberative process to ensure the facts of the matter can be clearly understood. As there have been new developments before the hearing, including details of acknowledged behavior, Athletic Director Haller suspended Mel Tucker without pay. While this action was not taken lightly, it was necessary, appropriate and in support of the affected individuals and of the interests of our community.

Our resources
Recognizing that this situation may affect other individuals within our community, I want to share supportive resources. If you are ever concerned about your safety or see behavior that does not seem appropriate, please consider these options:

• Report to MSU’s Title IX Coordinator/Office for Civil Rights anytime via the Online Reporting Form, or email
• Contact MSU through the Misconduct Hotline.
• If there is a safety or emergency medical concern, or a crime is occurring or has just occurred, call 911. Information about a potential crime may also be reported to the MSU Department of Police and Public Safety by phone at 517-355-2221.

The decision to share information about inappropriate behavior you or others have experienced or heard of may be difficult. If you would like to discuss options for sharing information or supportive services in a confidential manner, the following resources are exempted from reporting during the provision of services:

• MSU Counseling and Psychiatric Services
• MSU Employee Assistance Program
• MSU Center for Survivors
• MSU Safe Place
Community, state and national resources for survivors compiled by the Prevention, Outreach and Education Office
• University Ombudsperson

Our commitment
In the MSU of today, we are taking deliberate actions to be more aware and more accountable. We are committed to acting more thoughtfully and to creating solutions for a safer, more secure and more supportive university.

I recognize that the measure of our rise as an institution is the measure of our efforts to foster excellence and opportunity for all in a safe and welcoming environment. We remain committed to this ongoing work.

My best,

Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D. (she/her/hers)
Interim President
MSU Research Foundation Professor