University of Michigan fires president for inappropriate relationship
University of Michigan President Mark S. Schlissel was fired for having a relationship with a subordinate that the university’s board of trustees said violated university policy and was conducted “in a manner incompatible with the dignity and reputation of the university”. .”
The board terminated Dr. Schlissel’s employment immediately after a special meeting on Saturday, ordering him to return all university assets and rescinding an agreement that would have continued to pay him his $927,000 base salary for two years. years after the end of his contract in 2023. .
The board named a former president, Mary Sue Coleman, as interim president.
In a letter to Dr. Schlissel on Saturday informing him that he was to be terminated, the board said it received an anonymous complaint Dec. 8 that Dr. Schlissel had been involved in an inappropriate sexual relationship with a subordinate.
“There is no doubt that you were fully aware that any improper conduct or communication between you and a subordinate would cause substantial harm to the dignity and reputation of the University of Michigan,” the letter reads.
Allegations of sexual misconduct in academia are not uncommon, but they more often involve students and professors, not university presidents. Dr. Schlissel’s dismissal is notable because it involved the head of one of the country’s most prestigious universities.
Dr. Schlissel, who is married and has four adult children, according to his college biography as of Jan. 1, could not be reached for comment.
The investigation revealed that Dr. Schlissel had sent dozens of emails to the employee from his university account over several years. The board posted 118 pages of those messages on the university’s website in the interest, he said, of full disclosure.
In a July 1 email exchange cited by the board, the employee said her “heart hurts,” and Dr. Schlissel replied, “I know. mine too.”
The email ended with Dr. Schlissel saying, “I still wish I was strong enough to find a way.”
The emails continued, and in November Dr. Schlissel wrote to the subordinate that he was disappointed not to be seated next to her at a University of Michigan basketball game. He wrote: “The only reason I agreed to go was to go with you.”
The emails used “an inappropriate tone and inappropriate language,” the board letter says, and showed that Dr. Schlissel had used official business to carry out the relationship. Dr Schlissel’s conduct was “particularly egregious” because he had taken a public stand against sexual harassment, the council said.
After a provost, Martin Philbert, was accused of sexual misconduct, Dr. Schlissel sent a letter in August 2020 to the university saying that “the highest priority” was to make the university “safe for everyone”. , the letter from the Board of Regents is noted. Mr. Philbert left school.
Rebekah Modrak, professor of art and design, sponsored a successful faculty no-confidence vote against Dr. Schlissel in September 2020, primarily due to concerns about pandemic policies. She said she and other faculty members also believe the administration has not been listening enough to complaints of sexual assault and harassment on campus.
“For many of us and for me, the reaction was a huge relief,” she said of the dismissal. “Because he was such an arrogant leader and so ignorant of the teachers’ concerns.”
Dr. Schlissel announced in October that he would step down in June 2023, a year earlier than originally planned, but would continue to work as special adviser and president emeritus. This contract has been terminated.