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MSU dean resigns citing school's mishandling of sexual misconduct

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Amanda Barberena

Last week, the dean of the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine, Birgit Puschner, notified university officials she would be stepping down from the position and returning to faculty at the end of the month. In an email to administration, Puschner wrote she cannot continue in the role because of the university’s lack of success in holding individuals accountable for sexual misconduct complaints.

"We live in a time when people are increasingly comfortable reporting experiences of harassment, discrimination, or sexual assault, whether recent or in the past," she wrote. "Sadly, I am disheartened by MSU's approach to creating a supportive and respectful atmosphere for students, faculty, staff, and guests of all backgrounds."

She also said MSU needs rapid and sustained progress to minimize future harm and to retain talent.

"The lack of success in holding individuals accountable for the hurt they have caused to others troubles me and crosses the boundaries of my professional ethics and personal integrity and morals," Puschner stated in her email.

Puschner did not respond to a request for comment.

According to The Academic Sexual Misconduct Database, an open source database that tracks public cases of academic sexual misconduct, there have been three investigations of sexual misconduct on several faculty members of MSU's veterinary school.

The most recent took place in 2017, involving professor Matti Kiupel. According to the database, Kiupel was suspended for two months for unwelcome sexual contact and comments made at a veterinary conference in December 2016. He also had to partake in one-on-one sexual misconduct training and was removed from his position as section head of anatomic pathology. Kiupel remains employed at the university.

A request for comment from Kiupel went unanswered.

In a statement, MSU Interim Provost Thomas Jeitschko praised Puschner and the work she’s done at the college since her arrival in 2018.

"Through the work of Birgit and her team, CVM has been engaged in a comprehensive strategic plan since 2021 focused on a mission to learn, discover, heal, and protect," he wrote.

He didn’t make any mention of Puschner’s claims of mishandled misconduct complaints. Under Puschner’s leadership, the college has ranked as one of the best veterinary schools in the country.

As WKAR's Bilingual Latinx Stories Reporter, Michelle reports in both English and Spanish on stories affecting Michigan's Latinx community.
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