The Michigan Daily spoke with University President Mark Schlissel on Monday to discuss controversies surrounding Tamiko Strickman, Equity, Civil Rights & Title IX director, the Hail to the Victims protests outside his residence and the search for a new president and provost. Read part one of the interview here to see Schlissel’s plans for the Winter 2022 semester amid COVID-19 surge, as well as recent changes to quarantine and isolation guidelines.
This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
The Michigan Daily: On Thursday, a federal judge failed to completely dismiss the case against ECRT director Tamiko Strickman that said, based on the evidence provided by the plaintiff, she showed “deliberate indifference” when evaluating sexual misconduct at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. You have previously stated that you were confident that Strickman would be cleared of all wrongdoing in both lawsuits against her. Does this update in the court case change that confidence?
Mark Schlissel: It doesn’t, and I refer you to the statement put out by the University of Nebraska (which) basically says that the case can go forward. I work incredibly closely with Ms. Strickman. She’s fantastic, and my confidence in her is undiminished, and we will wait for the case to actually be completed.
TMD: The University has said in the past that the mediation between the University and the Anderson survivors is confidential, but the University is committed to ensuring they reach a “fair” monetary agreement with the survivors. What constitutes a “fair” agreement? Will the public be informed where the monetary source of that agreement comes from?
MS: Fair will be determined through the conversations that occur in the court-ordered mediation process, and part of that court order is that we not discuss the details outside of the context of mediation. I can say that I respect the folks that were harmed by Dr. Anderson for speaking up. I believe Mr. Vaughn is still outside my house, it’s hard to tell because it’s so darn cold outside, but we’ve been listening to survivors of this misconduct, they come to Regents’ meetings to speak –– as recently as the December meeting –– and we’ll have another meeting in February. We’re always open to hearing from them.
TMD: In November, students of the Ford School of Public Policy walked out of their classes after reports that a student convicted of a Title IX violation at their undergraduate university was granted admissions to the Master’s of Social Work and the Master’s of Public Policy program at the University of Michigan. The University also removed two questions from University job applications pertaining to if they have been convicted of a felony. What impact does felony and sexual misconduct and felony disclosure have on the University admission and hiring processes? What do you say to concerns that these admission practices lead to unsafe learning environments?
MS: In general, we’ve got a procedure where students are asked to declare whether they have been subjected to disciplinary proceedings at a prior institution, and if that student gets accepted to the University before that acceptance is made final, there’s a committee of public safety experts that look one case at a time whether they think that student in question is going to make our environment unsafe. That’s what led to there being a student at the Ford School that had had a misconduct finding in the person’s past.
We don’t want people in our environment to create safety problems for fellow students, but we also don’t want to live in a world where somebody does something wrong when they’re 20, and now they’re ineligible for the rest of their life. So it’s a real balance when it comes to changing employment questions. We (have a) commitment to judge every case one at a time, not bring into our community people that we think are an ongoing threat to others, but also judge a person on their merits.
There’s a famous movement going around: “Ban the Box.” So what (the University) does is we don’t ask the (felony disclosure) question until after we’ve decided that we want to offer this person a job. Then we go ahead and ask, and we have a process inside of HR that looks at the nature of the felony.
TMD: With Provost Susan Collins stepping down at the end of June 2022, which groups are involved in the search for her successor? Do you have a timeline for when the public will be notified of her replacement?
MS: We’re engaged right now in the process to identify the next provost. What we decided to do is look for a provost that will serve a three-year term, but a term that’s renewable if things go well. We picked a three-year (term), (and) I’ve got another year and a half to go, my plan as of now. So (the new provost would) work with me their first year, work with a new president their second year, and then the new president and the new provost can figure out how well they get along and figure out whether to renew the position for a longer term.
We are reaching out to groups on campus for discovery discussions, where we say ‘What do you think we need in a provost? What are the traits and the characteristics and the experience? What are the problems the person should be well suited to deal with?’ We’re at the tail end of that discovery process.
TMD: You announced you would be stepping down from the presidency in June 2023 and have said you would work with the Board of Regents to help with the presidential transition. Are there any updates to the presidential search, and is there a potential timeline to when members of the University community will be informed of the next president?
MS: That’s really on the board. That’s one of the most important functions of the Regents: to identify and recruit presidents and then to supervise presidents. So I’m not playing a direct role in the identification of my successor. What’s much more traditional, and what President Coleman, my predecessor, did for me, is she helped me — after I had been selected but before I started — climb the learning curve of understanding the University. I hope to play that role to help my successor.
TMD: Would you mind elaborating a little bit on what you meant with you and the former President Coleman?
MS: My appointment was announced in January 2014, and I started in July. So during those six months, I’d average one trip per month here to Ann Arbor. I’d meet with President Coleman and all the senior leaders of the University, just to understand the place and to understand what were the problems I needed to be ready to help with and make decisions about when I got started. President Coleman went through aspects of the budget, the social issues that were on campus, and it’s that type of bringing me up to speed which I hope to do with my successor.
TMD: On Jan. 17, Jon Vaughn and Chuck Christian will have been camped outside the President’s house for 100 days. What impact has having them camped outside your house for the past 100 days had on you and on campus?
MS: They’re advocating for something they believe in, and I respect them for that. Being away from their regular homes and living in a small camper or a tent, especially at 10 degree weather, I really respect them for the passion of their advocacy. They have treated me – other than some of the signage around the house – respectfully and haven’t prevented my ability to come and go from the house or to have guests over to the house.
TMD: As you know, we like to end these interviews with a fun question, and The Michigan Daily recently did a video series on this so we ask you: what’s your favorite place to cry on campus?
MS: I’m not sure I’ve ever cried on campus. Like everybody else, I go through periods where I’m excited and other periods where it’s just discouraging, particularly in (the pandemic). I rely on my spouse and my kids. I get to see them, and those are my kind of emotional release valves. Daily News Editors George Weykamp and Shannon Stocking can be reached at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.