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The Board of Regents fired former University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel effective immediately on Jan. 15 following a third-party investigation revealing an inappropriate relationship between Schlissel and a subordinate. The investigation — which uncovered over two years of emails and text messages between Schlissel and the unnamed subordinate — marked the end of a tumultuous presidency since he first took office in 2014. The Michigan Daily took a look back at events that happened during the Schlissel presidency, year by year.
This article represents a summary of Schlissel’s presidency over the past eight years and is not representative of all events which took place during that time.
2014: Students, faculty express excitement over the prospect of a new president
On Jan. 24, 2014 the Board of Regents and now-Interim President Mary Sue Coleman held a special meeting to announce that then-Brown University Provost Mark Schlissel would succeed Coleman as the University’s 14th President.
At the meeting, Schlissel said he hoped not to lead from the “top down,” but to listen to students and faculty first and foremost.
“The best ideas come from the people who do the teaching and the learning, so that’s why I need to do some listening first,” Schlissel said.
Schlissel had served as Brown University Provost for three years and Dean of the Biological Sciences Department at the University of California-Berkeley from 2008-2011. With an MD-PhD degree in physiological chemistry, Schlissel was a prominent researcher and continued to publish papers throughout his tenure at Berkeley and Brown.
“(Research) was his life,” Kwan Chow, one of Schlissel’s former students at UC-Berkeley, told The Michigan Daily in 2014. “He ran a lab. Two years doing administrative work isn’t going to erase that.”
On Oct. 26, graduate students at Brown University penned an open letter warning graduate students at The University of Schlissel’s commitment to anti-labor and austerity while he was their provost.
“We ask graduate students at the University of Michigan to join us in reminding Mark Schlissel about a central lesson of liberal thought: Academic freedom isn’t clean and quiet, and civil discourse isn’t polite and restrained,” the letter reads. “Not all great ideas with public value are profitable. When it comes to racism, sexism, labor exploitation, appropriation of public resources and overall devaluation of the people who work, teach and research for the classroom, there can’t and won’t be consensus.”
Schlissel’s appointment came after an over $315,000 presidential search that spanned over eight months and was met with initial hopefulness from students and faculty. Dentistry professor Rex Holland, then-vice chair of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs, said he was impressed with Schlissel’s credentials and excited to see him lead the University.
“I’m very impressed with President-elect Schlissel’s credentials,” Holland said at the SACUA meeting in 2014. “I have great confidence that President-elect Schlissel will be a splendid leader for a splendid institution.”
Members of the Central Student Government in 2014 were also pleased with the student-centric approach Schlissel displayed in his announcement address.
“(Schlissel) mentioned working with students at every opportunity that he had,” then-CSG Vice President Bobby Dishell said at a 2014 CSG meeting. “That’s something that we’re very much looking forward to, and every student should be very excited about.”
Schlissel began his initial five-year appointment on July 1, 2014, with an initial base salary of $750,000.
In September 2014 — just four months into his tenure as President — a graduate student launched a petition calling for the removal of then-athletic director David Brandon. Brandon was criticized by students for raising the price of student tickets and for the slump in student attendance to football games, as well as ignoring player safety concerns. The petition — which garnered over 10,000 signatories in just over 24 hours — came amid concern that Schlissel’s Ivy League background made him incapable of managing a Big 10 football team. Schlissel ultimately accepted Brandon’s resignation on Oct. 31, 2014.
“Dave feels that it would be in the best interests of our student-athletes, the athletic department and the University community if he moved on to other challenges and allowed the important work of the department and the University to continue without daily distractions,” Schlissel said at a press conference announcing the resignation.
2015 brings struggles with Fraternity and Sorority Life party culture, sexual misconduct in first year of presidency
In September, Schlissel met with members of all University FSL chapters to discuss alcohol abuse and sexual misconduct – two issues he said ran rampant within Fraternity and Sorority Life. Schlissel said the excessive party culture devalued the University’s reputation for academic excellence.
“The value of (alumni) degrees are gonna go down because the reputation of the University of Michigan won’t be the excitement in the Big House or our teams doing well under our fantastic new coach (Jim Harbaugh),” Schlissel said. “It’s not gonna be the kids who receive the Rhodes Scholarships and the Fulbright Scholarships, and the famous professors who do the work that you’re going to get reflected on for or the National Medal for the Arts that our faculty won this past week. It’s going to be the ‘Shmacked’ videos. So it’s really up to you what the value of your education is going to be, what the reputation of this institution’s going to be.”
Schlissel’s meeting marked the first time members of all FSL chapters gathered together in their over 170-year history.
The University also introduced Wolverine Pathways — a rigorous mentorship program for middle and high school students that would eventually accumulate with full tuition — in October. Pathways was an initiative to increase racial and socioeconomic diversity amongst the student body.
“Inseparable from our efforts to enhance our academic excellence as a public good is our work to improve diversity, equity and inclusion at the University of Michigan,” Schlissel said. “We cannot be excellent without being diverse, in the broadest sense of that word.”
2016 brings debate surrounding free speech on campus
The 2016 election introduced a point of contention on campus. Following former President Donald Trump’s surprise victory on Nov. 8, Schlissel penned an email to the University community providing resources for students seeking support in the aftermath of the election.
“I hope all of us will continue to proudly embrace the opportunities before us as the students, faculty and staff of a great public research university governed by the people,” Schlissel wrote. “Elections are often times of great change, but the values we stand for at U-M have been shaped over the course of nearly 200 years.”
At a protest following Trump’s victory on Nov. 10 at the Diag, Schlissel spoke to the crowd and urged them to continue advocating for what they believed in.
“Ninety percent of you rejected the kind of hate and the fractiousness and the longing for some kind of idealized version of a non-existent yesterday that was expressed during the campaign,” Schlissel said during the event. “So I urge you, continue your advocacy and your voices are already being heard. They are loud and clear — this is the way America changes. It’s the way it always changes. It’s the way it will change for the better.”
The comment drew criticism from conservative students on campus who drafted a petition condemning anti-Trump protests and Schlissel’s comments.
“The University’s response to President-elect Trump’s victory is perpetuating a hateful climate that makes students feel ashamed for voting for Donald Trump,” the petition reads. “As the president of a public university, I find his response biased and polarizing to the campus climate while he should instead be focused on unifying the student body.”
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy filed a lawsuit in 2017 claiming the University failed to provide emails sent by Schlissel after the 2016 election in a time span dictated by the state of Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act.
The lawsuit, which was settled later in 2017, revealed Schlissel was concerned about Trump’s victory in the days following the election and was having trouble with the idea of having to nominate an administrator to serve in the Trump administration.
In one email, Schlissel wrote he found it “ironic” conservative students on campus felt marginalized following Trump’s victory.
“Some complaints from our minority of Trump supporters who now feel marginalized and ostracized in our campus milieu and post election activity (is) ironic,” he wrote on Nov. 11.
2017 brings Go Blue Guarantee, racist incidents and political turmoil appear on campus
In February 2017, Schlissel, along with 47 other university and college presidents across the country, signed a letter criticizing Trump’s immigration ban and requested Trump “rectify or rescind” the executive order.
The executive order was issued on Jan. 27, and most notably barred any entry by immigrants from Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Syria for 90 days, with a possible extension.
Schlissel also issued a statement declaring the University would not release the immigration status of students as a response to Trump’s executive order. In an interview with The Daily, Schlissel said doing so would harm community members.
“We have students from over 100 countries around the globe,” Schlissel said. “The idea of excluding a significant fraction of the world as being potential members of our community, I think would hurt us.”
The University was also recognized as a leading university in environmental sustainability in February, as one of the 80 international institutions that received a gold rating from the Sustainability, Tracking, Assessment and Rating System.
“As we celebrate U-M’s Bicentennial, we are proud to honor the accomplishments of our faculty, students, staff and supporters who have helped us achieve at the highest levels — while also examining our potential for even greater achievements,” Schlissel wrote in a letter included in the 2017 Sustainability Progress Report.
At a Board of Regents meeting in June 2017, Schlissel announced that in-state students on the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor campus with household incomes of up to $65,000 and assets less than $50,000 will receive free tuition for four years beginning January 2018. The Go Blue Guarantee was to go into effect in the Winter 2018 semester for both already-enrolled and incoming students.
“I’ve heard from too many people who don’t pursue a Michigan degree because they feel they can’t afford it,” Schlissel said.
Tuition rates for the 2017-18 fiscal year increased by 2.9% for in-state students and 4.5% for out-of-state students.
In September, a slew of racist incidents appeared on campus, including racial slurs written on three Black students’ name tags in West Quad Residence Hall. That same day, racial slurs were also discovered on a building at East Liberty Street and South State Street reading “Free Dylan Roof” and “I hate n——.” Schlissel and other administrators released a statement following the harmful incidents.
In November, Schlissel announced the University had agreed to white supremacist Richard Spencer’s request to speak on campus after weeks of deliberation and the threat of a lawsuit from Spencer’s lawyer. At the Board of Regents meeting, students protested with signs and spoke against the decision during the public comments session.
Schlissel outlined three components of his decision: The University can impose restrictions on the circumstances of the event based on the First Amendment, but not content; denying the request would attract more public attention to Spencer; and protecting free speech is key in maintaining a democratic society.
2018: Name changes, a pay raise and sexual assault prevention initiatives
In an interview with The Daily in January 2018, Schlissel declined to comment when questioned about how the Michigan State University administration should go about taking responsibility or repairing harm done to students after former MSU athletic doctor Larry Nassar plead guilty to seven counts of crimminal sexual assault. Schlissel clarified in the Daily interview that sexual assault and misconduct have no place within the University of Michigan community.
“It’s not just athletic teams, here on this campus I’m responsible for 45,000 students …1,000 of them are student-athletes,” Schlissel said. “All members of our community deserve a workplace free of harassment and misconduct.”
Schlissel submitted a formal request to the Board of Regents in March calling to rename the C.C. Little Science Building after months of protests against the former University president’s history of eugenics research and involvement in the tobacco industry.
Schlissel also requested West Quad’s Winchell House be renamed due to the racist academic studies of Alexander Winchell, a professor at the University in the late 1800s.
“The University community makes a significant commitment to an individual or family when it names a space after a person and those who wish to change it carry a heavy burden,” Schlissel wrote in a communication on the Board of Regents meeting agenda. “In this case, I believe that heavy burden has been met for the reasons articulated in the (advisory committee’s) recommendation.”
During his opening statements at the Board of Regents meeting in March 2018, Schlissel urged the board to vote yes on his proposals to rename the buildings. The building name was officially changed after the regents unanimously approved the change.
In June 2018, Doe v. University of Michigan was filed in U.S. District Court by Deborah Gordon Law on behalf of a male University student. The lawsuit claimed the University’s sexual misconduct policy does not provide due process to males accused of sexual assault, and thereby discriminates against them on the basis of gender.
In September 2018, Schlissel received his fourth consecutive pay raise, bringing his then-salary from $820,000 to over $850,000 — a 3.5% increase. Schlissel’s salary in 2014 was $750,000.
Schlissel also introduced new initiatives to combat sexual misconduct on campus at a Board of Regents meeting in September 2018. The initiatives were the result of the Working Group on Faculty and Staff Sexual Misconduct investigations into University policies on misconduct and included mandatory sexual misconduct training for all faculty and staff. The working group also created a new website with educational resources and information about reporting sexual misconduct on campus.
At his annual Leadership Breakfast at the Ross School of Business in October 2018, Schlissel announced that Victors for Michigan, a fundraising campaign created by Mary Sue Coleman in 2013, raised more than $5 billion for University projects such as carbon neutrality.
During the Q&A section of the Leadership Breakfast meeting, Schlissel was asked about using funds to expand the Go Blue Guarantee to the Flint and Dearborn campuses. Schlissel said the program in Ann Arbor was “driven by the fact that we don’t have nearly adequate economic diversity on this campus,” whereas the Flint and Dearborn campuses have higher levels of socioeconomic diversity.
Schlissel also said that because the three campuses have separate finances, Ann Arbor did not have the financial means to extend the Go Blue Guarantee to the other campuses.
2019 sees pressure on Schlissel from One University and CAM
“I think we should continue to aggressively investigate all episodes that are brought to attention, recognizing that sometimes it’s very hard to track down a perpetrator given the scale and the openness of the campus,” Schlissel told The Daily in a January interview.
On Feb. 4, 2019 Schlissel announced the creation of the President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality, a group composed of faculty, students, administrators and local partnerships. The group was designed to provide recommendations and strategies on achieving carbon neutrality and work with members of all three U-M campuses.
Schlissel also said he believed carbon emissions were a profound societal problem, and the University was in good standing to find a solution.
“I’m confident we can get to our 25% decrease in greenhouse gas emission goal even early, but that’s not enough, and we literally do have to figure out how to approach 100%, how to approach a sustainable level of carbon cycling in the environment,” Schlissel told The Daily in the same January interview.
In March, members of the Washtenaw County Climate Strike (WCCS) staged an over seven-hour sit-in outside of Schlissel’s office at the Fleming Administration Building, and were told if they stayed past 8 p.m. on March 15, they would face arrest.
Then-LSA senior Olivia Perfetti told The Daily that WCCS intended to sit in front of Schlissel’s office until their demands — which included a one-hour public meeting with Schlissel without prescreened questions — were met.
“Even if none of us went into this with the intention of getting arrested, I think we all became very stubborn towards the end given the fact that we realized this was such a simple, straightforward, easy request to approve on his part,” Perfetti said. “The fact that (Schlissel) didn’t do it means that there’s something really wrong in the administration.”
Perfetti was one of several protestors who were arrested for trespassing on University property after hours.
In May, 2019 U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow ordered Schlissel to appear in court on June 11 as a result of the Doe v. University of Michigan lawsuit. However, in August, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Schlissel no longer had to appear at the settlement conference.
At their June 2019 meeting, the Board of Regents approved a controversial $500 international student fee for students with F or J visa status at the University’s Ann Arbor campus. The fee, which was originally designed to “to address increased costs and expansion of services during a time of declining state support and pressures on the University’s finances” was criticized for being discriminatory and for a lack of transparency for where the revenues garnered by the fee were going.
In an email to University students, faculty and staff in October, Schlissel announced a new draft of the umbrella policy for sexual and gender-based misconduct, which claimed to clarify the University’s policies to ensure consistency among all University groups.
In October 2019, the University announced a $300 million innovation building in Detroit, which according to Schlissel, would “provide a pipeline of talent and platform for research collaboration to help grow and attract businesses and entrepreneurs.”
The plans for the center consisted of a 200,000-square foot research and education center, accompanied by a technology incubator, 300 units of housing and a green space.
In November 2019, over 400 students signed a petition opposing the Center’s original placement on the Wayne County Jail site and expressed concerns that the Center would increase gentrification of the city. The location was changed to The District Detroit in December 2021.
In February 2020, Stephen M. Ross, University donor and real estate mogul, pledged to donate over $100 million to the Center.
At the final Board of Regents meeting of 2019, members of the Climate Action Movement and the One University Coalition blocked the exits of the Postma Clubhouse in response to the board and Schlissel not responding to their demands — which included divesting from fossil fuels and committing to carbon neutrality.
“The University of Michigan is the top public institution in the country, and the fact that it is neglecting communities of color, low-income communities, not only in the state, but frontline communities around the world in its complicity with climate change is really not becoming of a number one public institution,” then-LSA junior Amytess Girgis said at the event.
Police eventually had to break up the barricade and threaten to arrest anyone who tried to cross it.
The next day, members of CAM and One University issued a statement in response to the protest.
“Thursday’s events merely marked a continuation of the stonewalling, admonition, and inaction from President Schlissel and the Board of Regents despite an ever-increasing wave of student dissent,” the statement reads. “The shameful response from the Administration is symptomatic of a consistent lack of funding transparency, moral accountability, and commitment to productive dialogue with the student body.”
2020: Schlissel faces controversy due to Philbert allegations, COVID-19 policies
On March 11, 2020, Martin Philbert was removed from his positions as executive vice president for academic affairs and provost at the University. Schlissel sent Philbert a letter informing him of his dismissal due to a loss of confidence in his abilities to serve the University. Prior to Philbert’s termination, over 20 women brought claims of sexual misconduct as early as 2009 against the former provost.
The same day Philbert was removed, the University moved courses for the semester online in response to the first COVID-19 case in the state of Michigan, which Schlissel announced in an email to the campus community. The University also canceled events greater than 100 people, limited attendance to sporting events and canceled all spring and summer study abroad programs.
Students living in residence halls were informed they must leave campus by March 23, 2020, unless they had no alternative living arrangements.
On March 23, 2020, Judge Arthur Tarnow deemed the University of Michigan’s former sexual misconduct policy unconstitutional in Doe v. University of Michigan.
After months of uncertainty, in June 2020, Schlissel announced plans for a ‘public health-informed in-person’ Fall 2020 semester. Small discussions were to be conducted in person, medium-size classes would be hybrid and larger lectures would be conducted remotely.
The University opened on-campus housing and was in the process of determining campus testing requirements upon the announcement.
In response to the COVID-19 policies and the reopening of the University in Fall 2020, members of the Graduate Employees’ Organization went on strike in September 2020. GEO also cited anti-policing demands in their decision to strike.
“This is an (sic) historic moment; GEO membership has voted to strike in the middle of a pandemic at the beginning of the academic year, and is prepared to withhold our labor in pursuit of a safe and just campus for all,” a press release announcing the strike read.
Residential advisors also voted to strike in protest of the University’s COVID-19 response and advocate for stronger safety protocols for residential staff members living in dorms.
In response to the GEO strike, the University filed a lawsuit against the graduate student workers.
GEO accepted the University’s second offer to end the strike, which included a commitment from the University to revise the Michigan Ambassadors program and create a policing task force to evaluate the Division of Public Safety and Security and make recommendations about policing.
Schlissel received a symbolic vote of no confidence from the Faculty Senate on Sept. 18, 2020 — the first of its kind in the history of the University. A vote of no confidence meant that the Faculty Senate did not have faith in the president to execute his role as the head of the University.
“I as Senate Chair, along with the Senate Secretary, and SACUA have conclusively and unanimously determined that the University Senate Rules on voting using Robert’s Rules of Order for interpretation leads all of us to the same conclusion,” Colleen Conway, then-chair of SACUA, wrote in an email to faculty members in 2020. “Abstentions should not have been counted as votes, and Motion 6 should have passed.”
Among other claims, the vote of no confidence accused Schlissel of ignoring scientific evidence regarding the risks associated with the University’s plans to reopen for the Fall 2020 semester. According to the resolution, Schlissel did not take into account a report by the Ethics and Privacy Committee when crafting the University’s reopening protocol and did not respond to the committee’s concerns.
A stay-in-place order from Oct. 20 to Nov. 3 was enacted by the Washtenaw County Health Department, leading non-essential classes at the University to be moved to exclusively remote instruction and restricting students’ ability to renew their housing contracts for the Winter 2021 semester except for pressing circumstances. All other students were encouraged to isolate in their permanent residences.
Jennifer Rayman, class of 1994 and mother of a then-freshman living in a dorm, said she felt “betrayed” and “blindsided” by the University.
“As an alum myself I cannot believe these are the actions of the place I used to call home,” Rayman said. “The experience my child is having seems to not be a fraction of the one I have had and (the University has) perpetuated this situation … (The dining experience) has been despicable. Mental health? (The University) has done literally nothing for the isolated students.”
“Our experience this semester resulted in an unacceptable level of COVID-19 cases among our undergraduate students, both on campus and off, that got to a level that threatened our public health capacity to control the spread of the virus,” Schlissel said in an email sent to the University community on Nov. 6. “The changes we’ve made for Winter semester reflect what we’ve learned and what we must do to keep our community safe.”
In December, following the approval of the first COVID-19 vaccine, the University implemented its vaccine rollout plan, with Michigan Medicine employees receiving the first doses that were delivered Dec. 14.
In an email to the University community on Dec. 14, 2020 University President Mark Schlissel wrote the University will eventually have enough doses for all who wish to get the vaccine. Michigan Medicine followed vaccine rollout protocol designed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the end of 2020.
2021: More COVID-19 complications, committing to carbon neutrality and Hail to the Victims
On Jan. 19, 2021 classes for the Winter 2021 term resumed remotely, in addition to enhanced social distancing requirements after COVID-19 cases had increased rapidly toward the end of Fall 2020 and continuing into the Winter semester.
In February, Schlissel released an email notifying the University of increased COVID-19 cases in which the University of Michigan made up about half of all cases in Washtenaw County. This statement followed the diagnosed cases of the more contagious B.1.1.7. variant on campus. Later into the month, Schlissel revealed to The Daily that the University was unlikely to have enough vaccines to distribute to students at the start of the semester.
After two years of deliberation and research involving Ann Arbor residents, the President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality released its final 104-page report in March 2021 outlining the non-binding goals to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040. This report details the goals to combat the climate crises by working across the three campuses to mitigate carbon emissions by targeting three major scopes. In February 2019, Schlissel announced the creation of the PCCN after students called on the University to take action.
The Climate Action Movement had released a statement acknowledging the report’s plans for improvements such as sustainable housing, accountability mechanisms and environmental justice, but made clear their criticisms for its lack of specificity and reliance on carbon offsets.
“Thus, while the report takes some steps in the right direction, it falls far short of what the science tells us is necessary: a radical, swift transition to a resilient, carbon free economy, centering the basic needs of our most marginalized community members,” the statement said. “The University of Michigan needs a climate justice plan, not just a carbon neutrality plan.”
In June 2021, Schlissel apologized to SACUA for the controversial survey he had sent to over 4,000 faculty members stating whether the Go Blue Guarantee should be extended to students at the U–M Flint and U–M Dearborn campuses. His question implied that the extension of tuition aid would be a financial and academic burden to the U–M Ann Arbor campus.
On June 17, the Board of Regents met virtually to discuss the expansion of the Go Blue Guarantee scholarship to Flint and Dearborn campuses with a 3.5 GPA minimum requirement, despite there being no requirement at the Ann Arbor campuses.
“In order to truly see tri-campus equity we (the 1U campaign) will be asking to do away with this GPA requirement, which only exists at the Dearborn and Flint campuses and essentially says admittance to the University of Michigan at Flint and Dearborn is not enough,” then-rising LSA senior Annie Mintun said.
University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald explained the rationale behind these requirements in an email to The Daily at the time. He said all Ann Arbor students essentially have an incoming 3.5 GPA, thus this initiative was meant to incentivize consistency across the three campuses.
In mid-July 2021, Schlissel announced that the University would replace the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) with a new unit, the Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office (ECRT), effective Aug. 1. OIE had previously handled Title XI, harassment and discrimination cases, but came under scrutiny following the University’s mishandling of sexual misconduct cases over the past years.
The ECRT focuses on more “support and prevention” measures, Schlissel said. The supervisory policy was also strengthened under this shift, as the relationship between supervisors and supervisees would be more rigid and completely professional.
“Once that survivor makes a decision on the most appropriate and comfortable path for themselves, the equity specialists will work alongside the investigator to continue providing that support for both parties who are involved in an investigation,” Tamiko Strickman, director of the ECRT, said.
Strickman was also the defendant in two lawsuits alleging she mishandled sexual misconduct and racial discrimination cases while working as Title IX coordinator and director of the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
In an interview with The Daily, Schlissel said he was “very confident” Strickman would be cleared of wrongdoing.
On Aug. 28, 2021 members of the Lecturers’ Employees Organization demanded that the University administration provide an increased median salary for lecturers at the Dearborn and Flint campuses. These protests come after unsuccessful contract negotiations lasted nine months between LEO and the University administration. LEO had quit their existing contract Aug. 9 and had made their threats to strike clear to the University.
GEO, who had struck in the Fall 2020 semester, had expressed their reciprocation of support towards LEO’s actions and threats to strike after LEO had shown them solidarity. In early September, LEO had delayed their votes to strike after University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald confirmed that LEO extended their contract with the University of Michigan until Sept. 15.
Finally, in a press release on Sept. 13, 2021, the University administration and LEO came to a tentative agreement that the starting salary across the three campuses would be $51,000 starting in the 2023-2024 school year. LEO president Kirsten Herold wrote that the contract had marked a significant gain for the union, despite not all of LEO’s demands being met.
Since Oct. 8, survivors of the late University of Michigan Athletic Doctor Robert Anderson have been camping outside of Schlissel’s house in protest against the mishandlings of around 1,000 individuals who came forward about sexual assault allegations against Anderson. Throughout 2021, survivors had made appearances at the Board of Regents, rallied the community in numerous protests at the Diag and testified at hearings supporting legislation of survivors. For months, the University failed to address the campout in front Schissel’s house, and Schlissel only indirectly apologized to survivors at Regents meetings and to the press.
Jonathan Vaughn, an Anderson survivor and former U–M football player, has led protests where supporters wear t-shirts and pins with the words “Hail to the Victims”. This phrase has been a symbol of strength for survivors of sexual assault and condemnation against the University’s misconduct and handling of these cases. Survivors called for the resignation of Mark Schlissel, the Board of Regents and Paul Schmidt, the assistant athletic director who allegedly knew about Anderson’s misconduct. The “Hail to the Victims” protests aim to fight for accountability against sexual misconduct at the University.
On Dec. 8, an anonymous complaint was filed detailing Schlissel’s involvement in an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate, following his announcement in October that his decision to step down a year early would enable a “smooth and thoughtful leadership transition.” This led to an internal investigation of Schlissel’s contact and relationship with the subordinate.
Schlissel’s initial exit package would have allowed him to receive his full presidential salary for two years following his resignation, a tenured faculty position with a salary of no less than 50% of his ending salary of 927,000, and $2 million to start a research lab on campus. When Schlissel was fired in 2022, this contract was voided.
2022: In-person classes resume amid omicron, Schlissel abruptly fired
As the University entered its third calendar year of the pandemic, Schlissel sent an email to the campus community on Dec. 28, 2021 confirming an in-person start to the Winter 2022 semester – despite peer universities, such as Michigan State University, pivoting online due to spread of the omicron variant of COVID-19.
“The more-rapid spread of the omicron variant, now the dominant strain in the United States, means that greater case numbers are likely here, as they have been around the state and nation,” the email reads. “These cases seem to be milder than earlier in the pandemic, and those who are vaccinated and boosted almost never get seriously ill. We ask for everyone’s continued vigilance and care as we tackle this next phase of the pandemic. Both of these qualities were essential to our fall term’s success.”
In his final interview with The Daily, Schlissel said the University anticipated the increase in positive COVID-19 cases but regretted the delays in quarantine and isolation housing availability.
“We expected to see large numbers of cases,” Schlissel said on Jan. 10. “As omicron enters the community (in) different places in this country, they go through these big bursts of cases. I think one challenge we faced, which I think we could have done better in hindsight, is getting people moved into quarantine & isolation housing. We had so many cases the first few days (when) people were back on campus that people had to wait too long to get help moving into Q&I housing. We’ve caught up with the backlog; the backlog is gone.”
Five days later, on Jan. 15, the Board of Regents fired Schlissel after an internal investigation into his behavior revealed he had been involved in an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate. The board also released over 118 pages of emails detailing the nature of the relationship.
Schlissel’s firing was met with overall relief from the campus community with over 100 protestors gathering outside Schlissel’s house the night of his firing. Students played “Hail to Victors” and “Mr. Brightside” and cheered.
“It’s a long time coming,” LSA sophomore Grey Tingstad-Carl said. “And I think that’s just a bizarre and funny moment in history, and that’s why we’re here. We’re here to see it.”
Despite his firing, Schlissel is still a tenured faculty member at the University. On Friday, University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald wrote that Schlissel retained appointments at the College of Literature, Science and the Arts as well as the Medical School, and those departments were working on reincorporating him.
“Those departments are now in the process of officially absorbing him into the faculty and determining what his initial duties will be as he makes this transition, which was the commitment they made in 2014,” Fitzgerald wrote. “There are a number of details that remain to be determined.”
Summaries were written by Daily News Editor George Weykamp and Daily Staff Reporters Anna Fifelski and Brooke Halak who can be reached at email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. All information and quotes were compiled by The Michigan Daily News Staff from 2014 – 2022.