Teresa Woodruff, the university’s interim president, praised Pierce as a “remarkable leader” dedicated to the “success and growth of all Spartans.”
“Sandra’s keen understanding of board governance, complex organizations and fiscal responsibility are a strong asset to our institution,” Woodruff wrote in a statement from the university.
MSU Board of Trustees Chairwoman Dianne Byrum said she appreciated the governor’s “quick action” to fill the vacancy.
“Sandra’s instinctual leadership abilities, budget and finance experience and board governance will be important as we continue to move this great university forward,” Byrum wrote in a statement.
O’Keefe resigned in November over concerns about a lack of transparency within the university and slow cultural change in the aftermath of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal.
Michigan State is being led by an interim president for the third time since the resignation of President Lou Anna Simon in 2018 in the midst of sentencing for Nassar, a serial sexual abuser and former sports doctor at MSU. Woodruff was appointed interim president in November, but her short term in office has been greeted with controversy as well.
A Michigan State University alumna and donor threatened at a board meeting earlier this month to stop giving money to the university over the Board of Trustees’ handling of the forced resignation of former Broad College of Business Dean Sanjay Gupta and an investigative probe into the matter.
Gupta resigned as dean in August after he acknowledged that he failed to report a business school leader who allegedly was intoxicated at an end-of-the-year gala in April and acted inappropriately. Gupta learned of the alleged incident from two fellow deans who indicated that they had planned to report the incident to the university’s Office of Institutional Equity for investigation.
An investigation was begun on April 23, the day after the incident, according to records obtained by The News. Gupta didn’t report it and lost the post he held for seven years, although he remains an accounting professor. Critics, including former Trustee O’Keefe, have argued that Gupta’s forced resignation was hasty and was a punishment that didn’t fit the offense.
MSU’s mandatory reporting policy requires all university employees to report instances of alleged sexual misconduct they become aware of in their official capacity. Gupta remains an accounting professor at MSU.
Students, faculty, alumni and community members have been calling on the board to publicly release a report about the Gupta resignation by Los Angeles-based law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP, from which the board heard preliminary findings during a Thursday closed work session.
The Detroit News has reported that the results of the report were expected only to be delivered verbally after some trustees expressed concerns that a written report could be leaked, obtained by the public through the Freedom of Information Act or increase legal fees. Some university community members said they are concerned the public might never learn the report’s findings about then-Provost Woodruff’s decision to force Gupta’s resignation as dean.
Nancy Vella, retired managing director of Deloitte’s private client advisory group in Michigan, donated “a couple hundred thousand dollars,” she said, and helped raise more than $3 million for the Broad school, including two full-time endowed professorships and $1 million for the business school pavilion.
At the Board of Trustees’ last meeting of 2022, Vella openly challenged university officials to do more than pay lip service to being transparent: “As a longtime supporter of the College of Business, I will no longer support the college and university unless the aforementioned matters are resolved. Although I am only one person, don’t underestimate the power of the College of Business alumni. As business leaders, we will not stand idle.”
The MSU Faculty Senate agreed the board needed to release the findings of the report, which came after the Senate a few weeks earlier said an investigation into Gupta’s dismissal was not needed. “We want transparency from the board about the Quinn Emanuel report,” said Associate Professor Karen Kelly-Blake, chair of the faculty senate.