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4 on WSU board seek Nessel's opinion on vote to oust president

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Four members of the Wayne State University Board of Governors who sought to oust President M. Roy Wilson this week are asking Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel to weigh in on their move.

AG spokeswoman Kelly Rossman-McKinney said Thursday the AG's office was reviewing the request.

President of Wayne State University Roy Wilson has fended off some board members' efforts to remove him and has said he has "no intention of stepping down."

According to a message The Detroit News obtained, board members emailed a letter early Wednesday "for guidance on the enforcement of a vote" taken less than 48 hours earlier to remove Wilson, the university's 12th president.

After a subcommittee meeting Monday night attended by seven of WSU’s eight board members, the group remained for a second meeting at which governor Michael Busuito moved to terminate Wilson if he failed to resign by late Tuesday.

The motion passed with four votes from Busuito, Sandra Hughes O'Brien, Dana Thompson and Anil Kumar. Board Chair Kim Trent, Vice Chair Marilyn Kelly and governor Mark Gaffney, who support Wilson, walked out. Governor Bryan Barnhill II wasn't present at the meeting.

The voting board members claim the gathering was a valid special executive committee meeting called to discuss the Heart of Detroit Tuition Pledge. The university plans to provide free tuition for incoming freshmen for some semesters and discounted rates for others to high school graduates in Detroit who want to remain in the city.  

Several board members felt slighted after they were informed of the initiative hours before its unveiling last month.

“Members of President Wilson’s administration gave a presentation about the HOD Tuition Policy.  After listening to the presentation and hearing no good answer as to why the board was not informed about the policy prior to an hour and a half before the public announcement, Governors Busuito, Thompson, Hughes O’Brien and Kumar decided the best option was to terminate President Wilson for malfeasance,” the letter to Attorney General Dana Nessel said. “…The Michigan Constitution does not require the board to take a formal vote at a public board meeting to remove the university’s president.”

But Trent has said she did not convene an executive committee meeting and the gathering was for a briefing by WSU administrators on the Heart of Detroit pledge, so the vote is invalid.

She told university employees in an email that Wilson had not been fired and urged them "not to let board politics distract you from your important roles."

Busuito had emailed WSU's chief of police, calling on him, the general counsel and IT department to deny Wilson the office of the presidency after 5 p.m. Tuesday. The deadline passed without enforcement, according to university spokesman Matt Lockwood.

Wilson, who attended the subcommittee meeting on Monday but departed before Busuito moved to fire him, said in a statement he had "no intention of stepping down."


Detroit News Staff Writer Kim Kozlowski contributed to this report.