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4 Wayne State board members 'illegitimately' call for firing of university president

Posted at 7:00 AM, Nov 07, 2019

A statement was released Tuesday by the Chair of the Wayne State University Board of Governors about what happened during a Monday night meeting where four board members attempted to vote out President Roy Wilson.

The Heart of Detroit Tuition Pledge, the program announced in October that offers free tuition to Detroit High School graduates, is at the center of a rift between university board members.

There was a regularly-scheduled health affairs subcommittee meeting held Monday night, according to Board Chair Kim Trent. At some point following that meeting, four board members "illegitimately called for a vote on the president’s dismissal."

"There was no executive committee scheduled and no executive committee agenda was established as is required by university bylaws," Trent said, which is required for a proper vote.

Trent added that the four members attempted this vote in order to gather the majority and vote Wilson out.

However, under Michigan Constitution, a formal vote at a public board meeting would be required to remove President Wilson, Trent said.

“I’ve been advised by both the chair and vice chair of the Board of Governors to ignore Gov. Busuito’s note about termination, and I have no intention of stepping down," President Wilson said in a statement released Tuesday. "In fact, I’m more committed than ever.”

The Board of Governors released the below statement:

There is no legitimacy to the rumor that the president has been fired. The claim that a vote was taken during an executive committee meeting of the board to dismiss the president is false and disingenuous. First, there was no executive committee scheduled and no executive committee agenda was established as required by university bylaws.

Following a regularly scheduled health affairs subcommittee meeting last night, board members were given a briefing they had requested on a special topic. Following that briefing, four board members illegitimately called for a vote on the president’s dismissal. They did this because one of the four board members who is resolute in their support of President Wilson was out of town and they thought they could get a majority vote. The other board members present did not vote.

Even had there been an executive committee meeting, any votes taken would need to be ratified in a public board meeting and five votes are required. President Wilson remains steadfast in his commitment to leading Wayne State.

Read Board Chair Kim Trent's full statement is below:

Dear Members of the University Community,

As you may be aware through media reports, discord among our Board of Governors has given rise to an unfortunate rumor that President Wilson has been fired. This is not true. The claim that a vote was taken last night during an executive committee meeting of the board to dismiss the president is false. There was no executive committee scheduled and no executive committee agenda was established as is required by university bylaws.

Following a regularly-scheduled health affairs subcommittee meeting last night, board members were given a briefing we had requested on a special topic. Following that briefing, four board members illegitimately called for a vote on the president’s dismissal. They did this because one of the four board members who is resolute in his support for President Wilson was out of town and they thought they could get a majority vote. The other board members present did not vote. Even had there been an executive committee meeting, under the Michigan Constitution, the board would be required to take a formal vote at a public board meeting to remove the university’s president.

Vice Chair Marilyn Kelly and I have assured the president that he should lend no credence to claims by other board members that he has been fired. I can assure you that Dr. Wilson has no plans to step down as president, and that his commitment to Wayne State University and the community is stronger than ever. The university is thriving under his stellar leadership and his leadership is being recognized throughout the academic world. In fact, today President Wilson is one of a few select university and industry leaders at the White House for a summit on research across federal agencies.

It is my sincere hope that our board can come together in the best interests of our great university. My request of you is to not let board politics distract you from your important roles in serving our mission.

Sincerely,

Kim Trent, Chair

Wayne State University Board of Governors

WSU Board of Governors member Dana Thompson responded to Trent's statement with what she says occurred during the meeting. That statement says that it was a valid special executive committee meeting that was held, and that the Michigan Constitution doesn't require the Board to hold a formal vote to remove the university president, contradicting Trent's statement.

Thompson's full statement is below:

Under Article 8, Section 5 of the Michigan Constitution, one of the responsibilities of the Wayne State University Board of Governors is to hire the president of the University to work under the Board’s supervision. The president of the University is an employee of the Wayne State University Board of Governors. The president and his administration is NOT a co-equal branch of government with the Board. There are eight members on the Wayne State University Board of Governors.

Board Chair Kim Trent called a special executive committee meeting regarding the Heart of Detroit (HOD) Tuition Policy since President Wilson failed to discuss the HOD Tuition Policy with the entire Board before he publicly announced the Policy.

Board Secretary Julie Miller’s sent a few emails stating that Chair Trent called a special executive committee meeting. The special executive committee meeting was initially called for Wednesday, October 30, 2019 at 5 pm and since many Board members were not available on October 30th, an alternative date of the meeting was scheduled for yesterday, November 4, 2019 after the Health Affairs Subcommittee meeting.

A valid, special executive committee meeting was held yesterday with seven of the eight Board members attending the meeting. The Board members attending the meeting were Governors Michael Busuito, Dana Thompson, Sandra Hughes O’Brien, Anil Kumar, Kim Trent, Marilyn Kelly and Mark Gaffney.

Members of President Wilson’s administration gave a presentation about the HOD Tuition Policy. After listening to the presentation and hearing no good answer as to why the Board was not informed about the Policy prior to an hour and a half before the public announcement, Governors Busuito, Thompson, Hughes O’Brien and Kumar decided the best option was to terminate President Wilson for malfeasance.

Governor Busuito made the motion to terminate the president’s contract immediately, Governor Thompson seconded the motion, the floor was opened for discussion, then the members of the Board voted to terminate the president immediately unless he resigned by the end of the day Tuesday, November 5, 2019. The Michigan Constitution does not require the Board to take a formal vote at a public board meeting to remove the University’s president.

Board members voting for his termination were Governors Michael Busuito, Dana Thompson, Sandra Hughes O’Brien and Anil Kumar. Board Chair Kim Trent, Vice Chair Marilyn Kelly and Governor Mark Gaffney walked out of the meeting as the majority voted to terminate the President’s contract. Governor Bryan Barnhill was not at the Board meeting.

The vote that took place on Monday, November 4, 2019 at the special executive committee meeting was a valid Board decision to terminate a rogue, dangerous and nontransparent President. Again, personnel decisions do not have to be made at regular Board meetings in public. Personnel decisions may be made at Executive Committee meetings, including special executive committee meetings and only need to be reported out and not affirmed at the next regularly scheduled Board meeting.

Let’s be clear that we are not speaking about the merits of the HOD Tuition Policy. We are opposed to President Wilson’s abuse of his position and his abuse of process. President Wilson’s mishandling of the HOD Policy situation reflects the most recent example of his poor leadership and inability to respect the will of the Board, his employer. President Wilson has engaged in a continuing pattern of questionable, covert deals that compromise the integrity of the University. President Wilson is a danger and disgrace to the University and these are the reasons the Board terminated his contract November 4, 2019.

Governor Michael Busuito

Governor Dana Thompson
Governor Sandra Hughes O'Brien
Governor Anil Kumar