Emails from former University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel were released in a 118-page document Saturday evening, detailing inappropriate communication with a subordinate at the University. The emails were revealed as part of an internal investigation into Schlissel’s behavior, ultimately leading to his firing.
The investigation revealed a series of communication between Schlissel and an unnamed subordinate, identified in the emails as “Individual 1,” which disclosed multiple emails between the two dating back to September 2019 in which Schlissel sent the employee an article by the New Yorker entitled “Sexual Fantasies of Everyday New Yorkers.” In that email, Schlissel told the employee the article was “just for fun.”
The emails also detail several trips Schlissel and the employee went on together, including one to California and another to Europe. The emails also include receipts for dinner and movie reservations.
The regents also released a letter sent to Schissel outlining the causes for his termination of employment, including exchanging inappropriate emails with Individual 1 using his official U-M account.
In one exchange on July 1, 2021, Individual 1 wrote to Schlissel saying that her “heart hurts,” to which Schlissel responded with “i know. mine too.” Schlissel also wrote to the individual that “this is my fault,” that he is “in pain too” and that he still wishes he “were strong enough to find a way.”
Schlissel also responded to Individual 1’s official U-M email address on Jan. 9, 2021 with “Love it when you say that.” Schlissel made a similar remark on April 25, 2020, according to the regents’ letter.
The regents cite another instance on Nov. 4, 2021, in which Schlissel was scheduled to attend a U-M basketball game as part of his official duties as president. On that day, Schlissel wrote to Individual 1 saying that “the only reason I agreed to go was to go with you. there is a conspiracy against me.” According to the regents, Schlissel was not able to sit next to Individual 1, prompting his “disappointment.”
On Dec. 3, 2021, Schlissel also wrote Individual 1 about the Big Ten Championship “President’s Suite briefing Info,” to which he said “You can give me a private briefing.”
The emails also detail various gifts Schlissel sent to Individual 1, including a matching set of gifts and U-M facemasks for both of them.
The emails also reveal Schlissel and Individual 1 took several trips together, including one to India. The trip connected through Paris, prompting an exchange between Individual 1 and Schlissel about a hypothetical situation in the city if their flight were canceled, writing “What if we miss our connection and get stuck in Paris…” It is unclear if this trip was for University business or personal reasons.
Schlissel and the employee also exchanged texts over iMessage, which are included in the document as well.
“I am looking forward to seeing you later. That thought will get me through (sic) day,” Schlissel texted Individual 1 on June 30, 2021.
The emails come after the University updated its sexual misconduct policy in September 2021 to include more concrete definitions of misconduct, clarifications on ways to report misconduct and outlines for procedures in addressing sexual and gender-based misconduct allegations.
Schlissel’s term was filled with instances of sexual misconduct investigations among University faculty and staff, including former Provost Martin Philbert, who was the second-in-command below Schlissel.
In November 2020, the University reached a settlement with eight women who were sexually assaulted by Philbert, who had a history of sexually harassing female employees and having sexual relationships in University offices. The settlement came after an investigation conducted by WilmerHale, which found “significant evidence” that Philbert violated the University’s sexual misconduct policy.
In addition to the Philbert case, more than 950 survivors have come forward alleging thousands of instances of sexual misconduct by a University employee in what may be the most instances of misconduct by a single person in U.S. history. Anderson survivor and former U-M football player Jonathan Vaughn is running for the Board of Regents, with his campaign speaking out against Schlissel’s response to victims. He has been camping outside of President Schlissel’s house since Oct. 8, protesting the president’s lack of response to his and other survivors’ demands.