Dear President Schlissel,
If you’re reading this message, walk outside your door and talk to Jonathan Vaughn. In case, President Schlissel, you don’t know who that is, you may want to check out the student, local, statewide and national press coverage that his courageous statement has attracted. He is one of more than 2,000 students and athletes who survived the abuse of Dr. Robert Anderson, and he would like to talk to you. Now that you must know who Jonathan Vaughn is, walk outside your door and speak to him.
If you’re still reading at this point, President Schlissel, and not outside talking to Jonathan Vaughn, then I have to imagine there must be some problem preventing you from talking to him. Let’s brainstorm some solutions.
Maybe you’ve been looking for Jon all over campus but can’t find him to speak with him! Finding your way around campus, especially with changing bus routes, can always be tricky. Thankfully, he’s right outside your house! If you’re still having trouble finding him, send me an email about directions, and I’d be happy to walk you the 10 steps out your door to the sidewalk.
If you’re still reading, President Schlissel, then it must not be a problem of directions. Maybe you’re staying inside because you’re worried about catching COVID-19? A reasonable fear, given that we are living in an ongoing pandemic. If you are staying inside because you’re concerned about catching COVID-19, don’t you think it’s a little hypocritical that you aren’t giving faculty the same opportunity? You provided a ringing endorsement of “Work Connections” in the face of faculty members telling you the current process is a failed system. While I can’t cure hypocrisy, I can say that it does breed discontent. Studies have shown outdoor, masked and vaccinated meetings have incredibly low chances of COVID-19 transmission. Put on a mask, walk outside your door and talk to Jon.
If you’ve gotten this far, President Schlissel, then it must not be directions or a COVID-19 worry that’s stopping you. Perhaps you’ve lost your voice and are worried Jon won’t be able to hear you if you go outside to speak with him. I know my voice would undoubtedly be hoarse if I spent even half the time making empty promises of accountability and transparency as you do. To your credit, it is astounding you found the words to keep your job scandal, after scandal, after scandal, after scandal, after scandal; we’ve all been waiting for years for the other shoe to drop. If your voice is sore from all of the platitudes, as someone who works with singers as part of my degree in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, I suggest warm water with honey and lemon, a humidifier for your bedroom and vocal rest. Drink some tea, walk outside your door and talk to Jon.
If you’ve made it here, President Schlissel, then it must not be directions, COVID-19 or a sore voice that’s preventing you from doing, quite literally, the bare minimum for these survivors. Perhaps your schedule is too busy; maybe you’ve penciled in too much time to think about how you’re going to spend your early removal package! If that’s how much a failed presidency costs, I can’t even imagine how much we’ll have to spend on a successful one. But look, I get it, especially at this point in the year, things just pile up. I’d suggest budgeting time a little differently; why don’t you take some of the time you spend ignoring the Faculty Senate and use it to talk to Jon? Make some free time, walk outside your door and speak to Jon.
If you’ve read this far, President Schlissel, I can’t say it is looking good for you. I would like to think I’m an intelligent guy, but truthfully, I’m running out of solutions for you. Suppose it’s not about directions, COVID-19, losing your voice or a packed schedule. In that case, the only remaining problem I can think of is that you’re a selfish, cowardly embarrassment to the University of Michigan. We’re supposed to be the “Leaders and Best” around here, remember? If you can’t muster up the courage to go outside your house and talk to someone who is far braver than you, then you don’t deserve to be the head of this University. Being the “Leaders and Best” is not a passive description of who we are, but a higher calling we are charged to pursue in all we do; if we don’t have that in the highest office, what are we as an institution? If you can’t do this one small act that would make a large impact in the lives of these survivors, and survivors of other scandals under your tenure, then I suggest you close this article, gather your personal belongings and resign immediately instead of in June 2023 as planned. Make sure you sneak out the backdoor so you don’t risk bumping into a real “Leader and Best.”
If you feel, President Schlissel, that none of these possible problems address your neglect of Jonathan Vaughn, feel free to reach out. I’m sure we can think of something.
Andrew Gerace is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.