Worthy Of A Juicy ‘Succession’ Episode: The Ignominy Of A B-School Dean’s Ouster by: John A. Byrne on April 10, 2023 | 1,614 Views April 10, 2023 Copy Link Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Email Share on LinkedIn Share on WhatsApp Share on Reddit The controversy over the dismissal of Sanjay Gupta as dean of the Broad College of Business seems worthy of the underhanded conniving in a Succession episode The twists and turns of the plot that forced the resignation of Broad College of Business Dean Sanjay Gupta last August is worthy of an episode of HBO’s “Succession”. Hired by Michigan State’s Board of Trustees to investigate the removal of Gupta, a law firm has now concluded that then-Provost Teresa Woodruff used “disproportionate” discipline and may not have had former President Samuel Stanley Jr.’s approval before pushing out the dean who openly expressed a desire to have the job Woodruff wanted for herself. Pressuring Gupta to resign was clearly a bold and potent move for Woodruff who is now the university’s interim president, though this 104-page report by the Los Angeles-based law firm of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan will most likely guarantee her little more than the interim role she assumed in November. THE REPORT OF THE INVESTIGATION WAS RELEASED AT 11 P.M. ON A FRIDAY Michigan State University Interim President Teresa Woodruff In keeping with a “Succession-like political maneuver, Woodruff made sure to release the report—as required by the trustees—at 11 p.m. on a Friday, March 31. The firm noted that Woodruff, along with the university’s Faculty Senate, also attempted to quash the probe while investigators were gathering information for the report. She had unsuccessfully urged the Board of Trustees in October to shut the investigation down during its interview phase, the law firm said. Woodruff then claimed that the firm’s interview requests were “aggressive and unparalleled actions.” No wonder. The law firm, which interviewed 11 individuals and reviewed more than 9,300 documents, found Woodruff’s justification for removing Gupta severely flawed. Though she cited five different reasons for getting rid of the dean, the law firm concluded that only one allegation against Gupta was valid: his initial failure to report that then-Associate Dean Charles Hadlock became intoxicated at an off-campus “Gatsby Gala” for MBA students in April of last year and began dancing in a sexually suggestive manner. The episode was documented in a 12-second video apparently taken by a student. Hadlock is now a chaired finance professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz Graduate School of Business. Even this singular finding by the law firm was diminished in one respect because the incident had already been reported to the Office of Institutional Equity by other business school staff, and Gupta hadn’t been at the party at all. A LAW FIRM CONCLUDED THAT THE DEAN’S DISMISSAL WAS UNFAIR “Personnel actions taken against Gupta appear disproportionate, out of sequence with the underlying investigation, and based on a factual record that included errors and omissions of relevant information and context,” according to the law firm’s report. “Moreover, some of these issues raise broader concerns about the Title IX investigative process itself, as well as the underlying policies under which MSU is operating.” Though Woodruff insisted to law firm investigators that she didn’t need the approval of the university president to push out Gupta, the law firm concluded that university policy clearly required it. “Woodruff’s stated position during her interview – that she had the unilateral right to remove Gupta – is inconsistent with the Bylaws and Gupta’s offer letter,” said the law firm. The report also noted that the university’s discipline policy states that in “certain circumstances, it may be appropriate to consider the faculty member’s record as a whole when contemplating the imposition of disciplinary action.” Gupta has been a professor at Broad for 15 years, successfully serving as the business school dean for seven years. During her interview with the law firm’s investigators, however, Woodruff stated that she did not consider Gupta’s prior track record when he was disciplined. “Gupta’s record as a whole might have weighed against such significant personnel actions,” according to the report. “Prior to this incident, Gupta had never been investigated for violating the reporting protocol…During his interview, Gupta stated that he had diligently reported alleged misconduct that he learned about from potential claimants in at least two other incidents.” A review of 19 cases between 2018-22 that included personnel actions found that there was no discipline imposed in eight of the cases. In nine of the cases, the respondent was either required to get verbal counseling or do additional training on the reporting policy, which would have been the same discipline recommended for Gupta by the university’s Office of Institutional Equity, the report found. In the other two cases, one person received a verbal warning file for 12 months, while the other was suspended for three days. NEARLY TWO DOZEN STAFFERS DECLINED TO BE INTERVIEWED If anything, the Quinn Emanuel report will provide powerful ammunition for Gupta’s own lawsuit against the university. In that suit, the former dean maintains that he was unjustifiably kicked out as dean “based on false pretexts” and was “intentionally defamed and stigmatized” by false statements. Michigan State Broad College of Business Dean Sanjay Gupta resigned in August The motivation to push him aside, he claims, was part of a plan to enhance Woodruff’s personal ambitions to become president. The university has said it would vigorously defend itself against the lawsuit. During his interview with investigators, Gupta maintained that two other deans might have been treated differently by the university for similar violations. School officials told the law firm that neither dean had faced allegations of a mandatory reporting failure or been the subject of an adverse finding by the Office of Institutional Equity, and the trustees told Quinn Emanuel not to further investigate Gupta’s allegations. The investigation was apparently hampered by the fact that 22 current or former MSU employees or university community members either declined or didn’t respond to Quinn Emanuel’s requests for interviews. Among those were former university President Stanley as well as key administrators in the Broad College and the Office of Institutional Equity. “This lack of cooperation impeded a full assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the stated rationales for the administration’s actions,” the report said. ‘WE INTEND TO REVIEW THE REPORT IN DETAIL’ Woodruff had told the Board of Trustees that Gupta was dismissed was asked for his resignation as dean and returned to the faculty without an endowed chair position for five reasons: His alleged violation of the policy requiring employees to report relationship violence and sexual misconduct; His own failure to investigate an instance of alleged sexual misconduct of a business school leader; that his delay in reporting caused a two-month delay in an Office of Institutional Equity investigation; his failure to notify Faculty and Academic Staff Affairs of the misconduct and the accused leader’s request to retire; and failure to prevent an Outside Work for Pay Policy violation for the accused leader. The release of the report–which noted that the dean’s contract did not allow Woodruff to return Gupta to the faculty without an endowed professorship–was also accompanied by a bland statement put out by Woodruff who failed to confront any of the report’s conclusions. “The board and the administration share a commitment to the health, safety and well-being of all who are part of our Spartan Community,” Woodruff said. “I, along with others in the administration, have received a copy of the report, and we intend to review it in detail. My commitment to doing what is right and focusing on the long-term success and stability of our institution remains unchanged.” At least, until the Board of Trustees completes the process of succession at Michigan State. A TIMELINE OF THE SUCCESSION-LIKE PLOT OF A DEAN’S ABRUPT DEPARTURE Source: The report from the Los Angeles-based law firm of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan. The RVSM acronym stands for the Relationship Violence & Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Policy, while the OIE stands for the Office of Institutional Equity. DON’T MISS: DID THIS B-SCHOOL DEAN RESIGN OR WAS HE PUSHED OUT? or MICHIGAN STATE B-SCHOOL DEAN’S RESIGNATION EVOKES MEMORIES OF PAST SCANDAL Comments or questions about this article? Email us.