Former Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. has faced two terrorist threats since starting his tenure as the 21st president at Michigan State University (MSU) on Aug. 1.
On Sept. 6, Stanley and about 400 others were forced to evacuate from an MSU Board of Trustees meeting because of a bomb threat, according to Capt. Doug Monette of the MSU Police.
“No suspect packages were located; however, it is still an open and ongoing investigation,” Monette said.
About a week prior, on Aug. 28, two students were arrested for threatening terrorism against Stanley on the MSU Reddit thread, in a post that’s now deleted. Monette said that if the suspects — freshman computer science majors Jennifer Spicer and boyfriend Rami Souguir — are convicted, they could face up to 20 years in prison.
Police are still investigating the incident.
Stanley’s arrival at MSU followed the resignation of MSU’s previous president, Lou Anna Simon. She was pressured to step down, according to the New York Times, for how she handled a scandal in which more than 150 women accused former MSU faculty member Larry Nassar of sexual abuse.
Nassar, who worked as a team physician for two female varsity sports teams, had spent decades on the faculty at the university and treated its athletes, including members of the United States national women’s gymnastics team. Olympic gold medalists Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles and Aly Raisman were among his patients.
On Sept. 5, MSU agreed to pay a record $4.5 million federal fine after the Education Department determined that the school failed to report and address claims of the sexual abuse by Nassar. According to a New York Times article, the MSU police received a report about Nassar as early as May 2014.
As a part of a settlement with the department, the multi-million dollar fine has initiated two investigations into the university’s handling of the sexual abuse and the complicity of William Strampel, a former dean of the university’s College of Osteopathic Medicine.
In response to this news of the federal fine, on Sept. 5, Stanley announced several courses of action, including accepting June Youatt’s resignation as provost, effective immediately. Additionally, he formed a new oversight committee that will ensure the actions MSU will take are fully responsive to the steps outlined in the agreements with the Education Department, as well as the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) letter of findings.
“OCR’s letter of findings is very clear that the provost and former president failed to take appropriate action on behalf of the university to address reports of inappropriate behavior and conduct, specifically related to former Dean William Strampel,” Stanley said in a press release.
According to Kaitlyn Kelley, editor-in-chief of MSU’s campus newspaper, Stanley said during the presidential search at MSU this summer that he wanted to meet with survivors of Nassar’s sexual abuse to talk to them and help them heal.
“The community wants someone who is open and willing to talk to them,” she said.
Responses to MSU Facebook posts featuring Stanley, however, invoked mixed comments.
“Sir, Lead from out front like a true Spartan,” Facebook user Thomas Crew commented on a Facebook post of Stanley helping students move in at MSU. “Our past leaders left a bit of tarnish on our shields, but they will shine up nicely if we face our challenges with courage and integrity.”
Facebook user Penny Maroldo similarly commented on another Facebook post announcing Stanley’s presidency that she was “thrilled with the choice and looks for great things in the future at MSU under his leadership.”
Under the same post, Facebook user Carol Wellington Botts wrote that “Stony Brook is a disaster. Hopefully, Stanley will not bring that school’s low standards to MSU.”
MSU senior genetics major, Angelina Sdao, said that she believes Stanley’s initiatives are more beneficial than any actions taken by the previous administration, though she admitted that she now finds it difficult to trust any administration with issues related to sexual assault and violence.
When referring to an email Stanley sent out to MSU students and faculty, Sdao pointed out that it was very direct and had a large focus on the survivors on campus.
“It was something that our campus really needed,” she said. “Up until this point, the survivors had always been pushed to the end of an email.”