Michigan State University officials are investigating Sue Carter, the school’s former faculty athletic representative, for what one athletic council member said was over an alleged inappropriate relationship decades ago.
Carter acknowledged Monday that the probe was over what she called a “consensual relationship” 25 years ago and disputed the allegations. The university confirmed the investigation but would not describe the nature of the complaint.
The Office of Institutional Equity is investigating the claims against Carter, a longtime MSU professor, said Jason Cody, a spokesman for the university.
“I do not have, nor could I share, details of that investigation, including the scope,” he told The Detroit News.
The woman, Ellen Fedon-Keyt, wrote that Carter was her professor and a sexual relationship began after the younger woman's father died in a plane crash. She told The Detroit News she attended Wayne State University, where Carter taught before joining Michigan State's faculty in 1991, from 1990-92, then transferred to MSU.
"I'm not sure how Sue Carter justifies starting a sexual relationship with a student at all, especially a student so much younger," she told The Detroit News.
Fedon-Keyt said she was vulnerable at the time and left the relationship after seeking advice from friends.
Members of MSU’s Athletic Council, which Carter chaired until she resigned last week over the university’s handling of the Larry Nassar scandal, received an email Saturday from a woman who alleges they had an inappropriate relationship while she was a student, professor and athletic council member Martin Crimp said. He declined to disclose when or where the woman, now a psychologist in southeast Michigan, claims the relationship took place.
He and other council members forwarded her claims to the OIE. The office reviews complaints about discrimination and harassment, according to the MSU website.
Fedon-Keyt in an emailed letter to The News on Tuesday morning called Carter “a hypocrite” who “should not be one to speak of other’s failures” in her public stance in the Nassar scandal.
She said she was about 19 and an undergraduate student of Carter’s in the early 90s when the relationship began.
“After reading the recent Detroit News article, I am stepping forward to say from personal experience that Sue Carter has no room to make self-righteous statements about the sexual predations and moral responsibilities of others,” Fedon-Keyt said. “I find it deeply disturbing to witness her sanctimonious show as she, in her own words a “professor and priest,” steps down, not from her faculty position at Michigan State University, but merely from her appointment as MSU’s faculty athletic representative.
“... Like many undergraduates, I was a little lost and vulnerable. While I was her student, my father was killed in a very public plane crash that dominated the local news at that time. After the crash, Sue seemed to befriend me, often taking me out for coffee or lunch and asking about how I was doing. In retrospect, I think that she was drawn to the tragic spectacle of his death and to my youth and vulnerability.”
Fedon-Keyt said the period was “very confusing.” Carter, she said, “had been making me feel like I mattered.”
“I did not want to lose the person I had felt was my ally, so I went along with it,” she said.
Fedon-Keyt said she was “coming forward now with no expectation other than to expose facts, and perhaps to help anyone else out there who may have had similar experiences with her.”
Reached Monday night, Carter disputed the woman’s allegations.
“I am sorry for the harm she believes I caused in a consensual relationship 25 years ago when I was not her professor and we were at different universities,” she said in a statement. “While untoward, this was a legal, mutual, very short-term relationship. I am surprised that the Office of Institutional Equity would launch an investigation without the courtesy of informing me and then announcing publicly prior to gathering any information beyond her allegations. This is a knee-jerk reaction to an accusation from a troubled woman made over a quarter of a century later ...”
News of the allegations came the week after Carter, who had been the faculty’s athletic representative to the NCAA since 2014, publicly criticized how MSU handled the Nassar sexual abuse scandal.
Last week, the Athletic Council issued a statement — which Carter wrote — saying Michigan State failed the women who were abused by the former sports doctor, who was sentenced Wednesday to 40-175 years in prison.
“I no longer have the desire or the heart to support this administration going forward,” she wrote in her letter of resignation to then-university President Lou Anna K. Simon and copied to athletic director Mark Hollis. “As both professor and priest, I am profoundly saddened by Michigan State University’s public posture and seemingly callous regard for these girls and women.”
A professor in the MSU School of Journalism, Carter joined the faculty in 1991 after a 17-year career as a news broadcaster and talk show host at radio and TV stations in Michigan; Connecticut; and Ontario, Canada, according to a biography on the school’s website. She also was a board of trustees secretary and an executive assistant to university Presidents Peter McPherson and Simon.
Addressing the OIE investigation on Monday, Carter wrote: “OIE’s action, which is beyond its jurisdiction, is the sign of a university that is flailing and failing badly as it reacts to a crisis of its own making.”