Troubling texts between MSU trustees shed light on Mel Tucker saga

Troubling texts between MSU trustees shed light on Mel Tucker saga

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A string of text messages between current and former Michigan State University trustees show musings on how to smear the victim, lingering questions about how the school handled the sexual harassment allegations against Mel Tucker, speculation about revenge, and a suggestion that the MSU Board of Trustees use the scandal as a chance to fire interim school president Teresa Woodruff and MSU legal counsel Brian Quinn.

Mel Tucker is accused of sexual harassment

On the evening of Sept. 9, 2023, USA Today published an article revealing the allegations against Tucker and the name of his accuser, anti-sexual assault advocate and educator Brenda Tracy. Per USA Today’s Kenny Jacoby:

“Tucker is accused of making unwanted sexual comments and masturbating during an April 2022 phone call with Brenda Tracy, a prominent rape survivor and activist he had hired to educate his team about sexual violence prevention. Tucker denied the allegations, saying he and Tracy had consensual “phone sex.”

Now, via a request under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act, Deadspin has obtained text messages between MSU trustee Dr. Rema Vassar and former trustee Pat O’Keefe, wherein O’Keefe does most of the texting, offering his advice on how the school should handle the allegations and speculating on Tracy’s motivations.

“The University has known about this since December…why didn’t they come out ahead of the press on this?” O’Keefe texts, continuing, “Why wasn’t (Tucker) in March put on suspended leave until investigation completed?”

O’Keefe then goes on to ask Vassar if Brian Quinn, vice president of Legal Affairs and general counsel at Michigan State had anything to do with the school allowing the media to break the story. “Is Brian Quinn the reason they didn’t come out in front of the media on this? If so, maybe he’ll get canned, too. — questions I’m getting. BTW…how did (Woodruff) not suspend him, before the season, let alone last spring?”

O’Keefe, who stepped down as an MSU trustee in November of 2022, in part over issues of transparency in Title IX investigations, then advises Vassar, “Since Title 9 (sic) reported directly to president, you probably have grounds to fire (Teresa Woodruff). Cover up. Someone can argue due process, but this stuff gets out and the University again looks weak since somebody else is spilling the beans.”

Deadspin reached out to Vassar, O’Keefe, and Quinn for comment, but neither had returned our messages at the time of publication. Brenda Tracy declined comment.

“She is lobbing a Hail Mary bomb maybe to get back to her rapers”

From there, the texts take a darker turn, with O’Keefe, whose LinkedIn bio describes him as an expert in “the fields of strategic advisory services,” going on to suggest how the Board should handle the Tucker allegations and Tracy:

“I guess in thinking about this I would offer these thoughts. 1. The claimant (Tracy) is an experienced reporter knows the process, actually teaches within it. 2. She has chose (sic) to ignore the due process required for these matters by spilling confidential matter to the media. 3. She does this because either she isn’t going to participate in the October hearings so she is lobbing a Hail Mary bomb maybe to get back to her rapers (sic) previously or she doesn’t trust the Title 9 process and wants to extract her own revenge (on who i am not saying I don’t know).”

Tracy’s attorney, Karen Truszkowski, said last month that Tracy’s name was leaked by “an outside source,” which caused her to speak to USA Today about the allegations against Tucker. The University is currently investigating where the leak originated. Further, Tracy did take part in the Title IX hearing on her claims against Tucker. Tucker did not attend the hearing due to what his attorneys called a “serious medical condition.”

O’Keefe continues his texts to Vassar, saying of Tracy, “Her actions are unprofessional and so out of bounds it is hard to figure why she would commit such career suicide. I have been around people who have been hurt and want to hurt someone just to feel good about themselves. She had plenty of outs if she didn’t want to be a victim. First, like hanging up the phone, battery went dead, got something else I need to attend to but she didn’t. I am suspect on motivation, but I am betting she doesn’t show up or is trying to influence the process. Bad situation all the way around. I am not on the board and my phone is blowing up. Can’t imagine what it is like for you. Praying for your wisdom, guidance, and ability to maintain a clear and unbiased vision. Somebody needs to.”

The texts obtained by Deadspin end with Vassar telling O’Keefe, “I need to talk to you” on Monday, Sept. 11, 2023, at 8:34 pm. O’Keefe then responds “Call me. I think you have ground to fire TW (Woodruff). The Title 9 office reports solely to her and she doesn’t know the details of the Tucker investigation. Not believable.”

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Original source here

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.