October 12, 2021
Welcome to this week of The University Insider. Fall Break is fast approaching, and we hope you get some well-earned rest during this long weekend.
This week, President Schlissel’s signs a multi-million dollar resignation contract, faculty are denied remote teaching and allegations of sexual assault in the University’s chapter of Young Life, a Christian youth organization are reported by Business Insider.
University President Mark Schlissel announced he plans to step down early, serving up to nine years as president instead of his originally planned 10. activists won key victories under Schlissel’s tenure, one that was marred by public backlash surrounding COVID-19 policies, labor relations and sexual misconduct revelations.
Schlissel’s announcement comes one month after the Detroit Free Press reported his relationship with the Board of Regents had soured over the Detroit Center for Innovation. The project was pitched as a signature project for the University but lost the support of major donor Stephen M. Ross in July of this year.
Schlissel’s exit package, first obtained by the Detroit Free Press,promises him millions of dollars in benefits and his full $927,000 salary for two years after resigning. The package is among the largest in history for university presidents according to the Detroit Free Press and promises Schlissel at least $463,500 in annual pay if he chooses to join the faculty in addition to $2,000,000 in lab start-up costs. Students and staff alike took to Twitter to criticize the move, juxtaposing the generous compensation Schlissel will receive with yearly tuition increases and the University’s reluctance to increase pay for lecturers, librarians and graduate students during the pandemic. In an interview with The Daily last Friday, Schlissel characterized the contract as merely a continuation of the contract extension he signed in 2018 and called it a “fair way forward.”
Bright Sheng, Leonard Bernstein Distinguished University Professor of Composition, stepped back from teaching an undergraduate composition seminar after sharing a video clip in which an actor is shown in blackface. Music, Theatre & Dance freshman Olivia Cook described how the scene from “Othello” (1965) unsettled her as actor Laurence Olivier wore blackface.
“I was stunned,” Cook said. “In such a school that preaches diversity and making sure that they understand the history of POC (people of color) in America, I was shocked that (Sheng) would show something like this in something that’s supposed to be a safe space.”
The Daily looked deeper into Sheng’s decision to step back and found controversy surrounding both the video and his apology, in which he defended himself by pointing to examples of his non-discrimination in casting. Sheng told The Daily “I made a mistake in showing this film. It was insensitive of me, and I am very sorry,” and said “perhaps I should have apologized for (the blackface video) only.”
Faculty at the University looking to teach remotely have run into challenges from University administration, which insists the classroom remains “the safest place on campus.”
“As (the delta variant) continued getting worse, I became more and more hesitant about being in person,” Erick Aguinaldo, graduate student instructor in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, said. “My daughter’s ten months old right now, so that was a big worry for me.”
Faculty with children who are too young to be vaccinated and those with pre-existing conditions reported being denied accommodations by Work Connections, the University’s Illness Assistance program. Those who were denied said they struggled with helplessness and a feeling of despair without resources to accommodate their or their family’s vulnerability to COVID-19.
Asian Language and Culture Professor Pinderjeet Gill gave a lecture on the connective value of language in honor of her winning of the 31st Golden Apple Award, the only faculty honor bestowed by students. Gill told the story of how a woman’s simple greeting led her to feel truly welcomed in the United States for the first time.
“She rolled down her window. I was very confused and rolled down my window. She must have seen that my husband was wearing a turban. She smiled and said, ‘Sat sri akaal,’” Gill said. “At that moment, she and I connected with a welcome. My husband and I were so incredibly happy that someone had recognized us and our culture.”
Business Insider published a story last Tuesday detailing accounts of sexual misconduct at Christian student organization Young Life. Two members of the U-M chapter were quoted in the article, describing how the organization allegedly turned a blind eye to their assaults at the hands of other Young Life members. Public Health senior Maddie Malvitz and LSA senior Becca Wong have both called on the organization to “do better.”
“I do not believe that Young Life can change internally,” Wong said. “I think the external pressure is the only thing that will force them to change because we’ve seen how they responded to the #DoBetterYoungLife movement and how they responded to so many stories of people being hurt by their homophobia and their homophobic policies, and they responded with, ‘We’re not changing our policies. This is the Word of God.”’
Michigan Football pulled out a win in a nailbiter against Nebraska, eking out a 32-29 win with a field-goal kick from Jake Moody and a strong defensive stand. The win propels Michigan from the 8-win doldrums common of the Jim Harbaugh era and into serious contention for a playoff bid. The Wolverines have shone even when the team was not firing on all cylinders, never caving to the pressure. While its toughest challenges lie ahead, Michigan has a real shot at a Big Ten title and competitiveness on the national stage.
Daily columnist Ben Davis examines how correcting pronunciation serves less to educate and more to belittle. Davis describes how dialectic variation, a feature of a language as complex as English, is erased as speakers try to force others to adapt their preferred pronunciations. Beyond regional dialectic variation, African-American Vernacular English is often stigmatized as being “improper,” a characterization that disrespects the linguistic soundness of the dialect. Davis ends by calling on others to stop correcting pronunciations and to respect all the various English dialects.
As of Monday evening, 96% of students are fully vaccinated (with another 1% partially vaccinated and 2% exempt) along with 96% of faculty and 87% of staff, bringing the overall employee vaccination rate to 88%. Two percent of employees have received an exemption, <.5% are in progress and 10% have either rejected the vaccine or have not submitted their proof of vaccination. Bargained-for employees, including nurses at Michigan Medicine, are not covered by the vaccine mandate. In Washtenaw County, 69.0% of residents 16 and older have been fully vaccinated.
Quarantine and isolation occupancy is 2.1%, with six students isolating due to a positive test result and zero quarantining after an exposure. All of the Q&I statistics represent a fall from last week.
For the week beginning Oct. 3, the University preliminarily reported 53 positive cases from 3,306 tests, which marks a slight uptick in positivity from last week with cases plateauing while testing continues to decline.
Michigan Athletics are in full swing! Stay up to date on all things concerning the Wolverines by following The Daily’s sports account theblockm on Twitter and Facebook. Check out the Sports section of our website for full articles.
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