Update 1/20: The Detroit News reported University President Mark Schlissel denied allegations of engaging in an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate twice before the investigation released evidence of emails and texts.
University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel has been fired effective immediately following an internal investigation revealing Schlissel’s inappropriate behavior with a subordinate at the University, according to a Saturday press release from the Board of Regents.
The decision was made at a closed-door Board of Regents meeting Saturday morning without a public vote after the board hired a third party investigator to determine whether or not Schlissel’s actions as president had violated the University’s supervisor relationship policy.
“It is with great disappointment that we announce that the University of Michigan Board of Regents has removed Dr. Mark Schlissel as President of the University of Michigan, effective immediately,” the Board of Regents wrote in a Saturday press release.
The policy, which was introduced in July 2021, states that “a Supervisor may not, implicitly or explicitly, initiate or attempt to initiate an Intimate Relationship with a Supervisee over whom they exercise supervisory authority,” and was implemented in July 2021 following allegations former Provost Martin Philbert had used his position to coerce women into sexual relationships.
The firing comes after an anonymous complaint submitted on Dec. 8. revealed Schlissel had been in an inappropriate relationship with a University employee. A subsequent investigation was performed which found he had used his University email account to inappropriately communicate with said employee.
Schlissel’s existing contract contained a morals clause which stated his behavior as President “be consistent with promoting the dignity, reputation, and academic excellence of the University.”
The Board of Regents released a letter transmitted to Schlissel informing him of his termination. In it, the regents outlined their justification for firing him, citing messages sent from his University email to a subordinate. Because the regents fired Schlissel for cause, he will no longer receive the golden parachute he and the regents negotiated when he announced he would resign in 2023.
Schlissel had previously provoked the regents’ ire for failing to to communicate with the board regarding the Detroit Center for Innovation. Talks broke down between donor Stephen M. Ross and Dan Gilbert, who owned the site. An anonymous administration official who spoke to the Detroit Free Press said the regents felt Schlissel left them in the dark as negotiations faltered.
In October, Schlissel announced that he would be stepping down from the job in June 2023, a year earlier than planned. The Detroit Free Press at the time categorized his stepping down early as a deal between the members of the board who were satisfied and dissatisfied with his performance.
The decision was announced Saturday night. A press release from the University announced president emerita Mary Sue Coleman will serve as interim president. Coleman served as president from 2002 until 2014.
In a statement posted to the Board of Regents website, Coleman wrote she was sad to learn of the allegations against Schlissel but was honored to once again be leading the University.
“While saddened by the circumstances, I am honored to be asked to again serve the University of Michigan,” Coleman wrote. “When I left the U-M campus at the end of my presidency in 2014, I said serving this great university was the most rewarding experience of my professional life. I’m happy to serve again in this important interim role.”
The University has hired the private law firm Jenner & Block to continue the investigation into Schlissel’s behavior. According to the Detroit Free Press, the firm is also investigating whether Schlissel misused University funds to support his relationship with the unnamed subordinate.
In an email obtained by the Michigan Daily addressed to LSA employees Saturday night, LSA Dean Anne Curzan wrote she would be meeting with fellow deans and senior leaders tomorrow and will communicate additional updates in the coming days.
Curzan wrote Schlissel’s firing reinforced to need for sexual misconduct prevention on campus.
“As I process this news, it only strengthens my commitment to continuing the work we have been undertaking in the college, with the wise, research-informed guidance of the Preventing Sexual Harassment Working Group,” Curzan wrote. “It is essential.”
Jonathan Vaughn, former University football and notable survivor of the late Doctor Robert Anderson who has been camped outside of Schlissel’s house for nearly 100 days in protest of the University’s handling of sexual misconduct tweeted Schlissel’s firing would help create a safer campus.
“This news is fuel for my mission: the safety & protection of the students of this university,” Vaughn wrote. “After 99 days of being ignored in front of former President Mark Schlissel’s home, the regents finally made 1 good choice. But there must be many more if U-M is to be fully accountable.”
Daily News Editor Roni Kane and Daily Staff Reporter Michal Ruprecht contributed reporting
Daily News Editor George Weykamp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update: This story contains the most updated information as of Jan. 19.
Correction: A previous version of this article included a quote from a statement regarding former university doctor Robert Anderson. That quote has been removed.