MSU business center head suspended after sex misconduct claim

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

The director of Michigan State University's International Business Center and Center for International Business Education and Research — who also initially served on the MSU presidential search committee — has been suspended after a colleague publicly accused him of sexual misconduct.

Sanjay Gupta, dean of the MSU Broad College of Business, on Monday announced to the business school the suspension of Tomas Hult for 12 weeks beginning Oct. 1, according to an email obtained by The Detroit News. The suspension does not include Hult's duties as a professor in the Broad College of Business, Gupta wrote.

Tomas Hult

The suspension comes three months after an internal inquiry found Hult had not violated MSU policy and three days after Sarah Singer, director of Education Abroad in MSU's business school, spoke during a Board of Trustees meeting about her claim of unwanted touching and inappropriate speech by a colleague.

Singer said her case had changed the makeup of MSU's presidential search committee.

Singer filed a complaint in January with MSU's Office of Institutional Equity against Hult, to whom she previously reported. Her complaint came five months after the MSU presidential search committee was established with Hult as a member.

The OIE concluded in June that Hult did not engage in behavior that violated MSU's Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct Policy. Singer appealed the finding, but officials let it stand in July.

MSU spokeswoman Emily Guerrant did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment Tuesday evening.

Singer did not name Hult during her three-minute speech at the MSU trustees meeting, the first for new President Samuel Stanley. She alleged that the person she filed a complaint against had made reference to her breasts, touched her thigh, patted her stomach, asked if a logo looked like a penis and hugged other colleagues when repeatedly asked not to do so.

Asked Tuesday if Hult was the colleague referenced in her complaint, Singer confirmed it was him. 

Singer said she was grateful that MSU took action.

"I am gratified that the college has taken action in suspending him from his administrative role," Singer said. "As I mentioned to the board, my college and my dean have been extremely supportive throughout this process. That said, it is extremely frustrating that no one can say definitively to me that he was suspended for engaging in these behaviors and I think that is a failure of policy at the university level."

She also said: "It is a travesty if (it took) me going to the board for this action to come to fruition. No one should need to stand before the board for the university to recognize that this conduct is egregious."

Reached by email, Hult acknowledged he was the subject of an OIE investigation "wherein they found, at all stages, that any allegations against me were not found to have violated the policies of the University."

"I know that I did not do what I am accused of and am pleased the OIE found as it did," Hult said. "As the investigation started, I volunteered to step down from the MSU presidential search committee to not be a distraction."

Hult emphasized that he was not suspended from regular faculty duties.

"It is not clear to me the true reasons why I was suspended as a center director, especially given the fact that I was found not to have violated OIE policy," he said.

He also said he was not aware of a connection between Singer's comments to the trustees and his suspension.

"I hope that this issue is allowed to be put to rest," Hult said. "I will continue to work to be a positive force for the Center, Department, College, and University."