EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Michigan State University’s Interim President Teresa Woodruff says the suspension without pay of football coach Mel Tucker, indicates a shift in the culture at the university.

“This is a new MSU,” she said repeatedly Sunday evening. But a former sexual assault counselor employed by MSU is calling that claim into question.

“Lack of transparency is still a problem,” Lauren Allswede tells 6 News. “There is no articulation of the real threat of sexual violence at every level of the university – and no articulation of what is changing, why and by whom. How can we trust the same individuals who broke protocol six years ago to adhere to it today?”

Allswede has a master’s in social work and runs North Star Wellness Center in Lansing. She provides counseling to survivors of sexual assault and abuse. She began her work in counseling at MSU at the Sexual Assault Crisis Center in 2007, working with survivors in self-advocacy, navigation of the Title IX and criminal justice system and psychological care related to the trauma. She struck out into private practice in 2015.

In 2010, Allswede found herself in the middle of a high-profile allegation of sexual assault against then freshmen basketball players Adriene Payne and Keith Appling. Eight years later, internal documents released by MSU – after the Michigan Supreme Court ruled those documents needed to be released to ESPN – revealed Alan Haller, then an officer at MSU police, was dispatched to meet with MSU Basketball Coach Tom Izzo and others about the allegations.

MSU Athletic Director Alan Haller announced the suspension, without pay, of football coach Mel Tucker on Sunday, Sept. 10. Tucker was suspended after it became public he had been under investigation for months for allegedly sexually harassing a woman.

“Mr. Haller met with Coach Izzo, the two male students and Assistant Basketball Coach (Mike) Garland to explain what the potential charges were, and how the criminal justice process worked, and to instruct the students to refrain from attending any social gatherings and to have no contact with complainant,” an official at the university wrote.

Tucker stands accused of sexually harassing Brenda Tracy. She’s an anti-rape, anti-sexual harassment educator who works with universities across the country with her program Set The Expectation. She alleges that during a phone call with Tucker, he masturbated. Tucker admitted to investigators he had engaged in the conduct during an investigatory interview, although he alleges it was consensual phone sex.

The original complaint was filed in December of last year, and on July 25, MSU leadership was provided the investigation report. But Tucker remained coaching until Sunday evening. He had some restrictions, officials say, including a no-contact order with Tracy and increased oversight by Haller. Officials say that actions stemming from Title IX investigations, called interim measures, are constantly re-evaluated and when something changes so do those measures. The suspension was a new interim measure, Haller says. But he did not answer why it happened more than a month after university officials were notified of the investigation report.

MSU Football Coach Mel Tucker. (WLNS FILE PHOTO)

Here are some of the most recent sexual assault and sexual harassment scandals from MSU.

  • 2016: Spartan Marching Band director John T. Madden was accused by a female student of sending her numerous inappropriate text messages. He was suspended without pay for one week and had his promotion to full-time professor held for three months. MSU did not reveal the case until the State News, the student publication, broke the story in 2017.
  • 2017: At the same time as the Madden information was being revealed, MSU also confirmed that MSU had indefinitely suspended Curtis Blackwell, then the Football program’s director of college advancement and performance. Three players were also suspended over allegations of sexual assault.
  • 2022: Sanjay Gupta, dean of the Broad School of Business, says he was pressured to resign after an investigation determined he had failed to report alleged sexual harassment by then-Associate Dean Charles Hadlock. Hadlock’s inappropriate behavior led to complaints to the Office of Institutional Equity, and subsequently, he admitted to drunkenly dancing with students at a university-sponsored event. He resigned the next day.  Gupta, an investigation revealed, failed to report the violation of the university’s policies as required. Gupta says he was pressured to resign by Woodruff, who was then Provost with the power to hire and fire deans of the university. Gupta is suing MSU in federal court alleging Woodruff and others defamed him.
  • 2016: The Indianapolis Star reports the beginning of an investigative series into misconduct by Larry Nassar, a sports medicine doctor. He was accused of performing invasive procedures under the guise of medical care, from which he derived sexual pleasure. He was convicted Subsequently, it was learned MSU had warnings of Nassar’s alleged misconduct dating back as far as 2014. Nassar was subsequently convicted of federal child pornography possession charges and sentenced to 60 years in prison, then multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct crimes in both Ingham and Eaton counties. He was sentenced to serve another 40 to 175 years in state prison for those convictions after his federal term was completed. MSU was sued by 332 Nassar survivors. The university settled for $500 million with the survivors.

She says Woodruff’s claim of a “new MSU,” isn’t accurate.

“Not a new MSU,” she says, noting the university has a long history of delaying publicly discussing sexual harassment and assault cases and holding the accused accountable.