UNDATED (WOOD) — Mark Schlissel has been removed from his post as president of the University of Michigan after the Board of Regents found evidence he had an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate.
The regents announced the move Saturday evening. They said an anonymous tip came in Dec. 8 alleging that Schlissel and the subordinate were having an affair.
“After an investigation, we learned that Dr. Schlissel, over a period of years, used his University email account to communicate with that subordinate in a manner inconsistent with the dignity and reputation of the University,” the regents wrote in a statement.
The board released copies of the emails and text messages in question, which date back to September 2019, as well as its letter to Schlissel informing him he was being fired, in which it outlined some of the most concerning comments. Those include innuendo, Schlissel referring to the person as ‘sexy’ and references to emotional distress that seemingly stemmed from the relationship.
Other emails the regents released included references to making plans together, an article about sex that Schlissel forwarded to the subordinate and information about gifts he bought the person.
“These emails demonstrate that you were communicating with the subordinate through the University of Michigan email system using an inappropriate tone and inappropriate language,” the regents’ letter to Schlissel reads in part. “They also demonstrate that you were using official University of Michigan business as a means to pursue and carry out a personal relationship with the subordinate.”
“Your conduct as summarized above is particularly egregious considering your knowledge of and involvement in addressing incidents of harassment by University of Michigan personnel, and your declared commitment to work to ‘free’ the University community of sexual harassment and other inappropriate conduct,” the letter continues. “…There can be no question that you were acutely aware that any inappropriate conduct or communication between you and a subordinate would cause substantial harm to the dignity and reputation of the University of Michigan.”
For now, former university President Mary Sue Coleman will step in as interim president. She held the job for 12 years before retiring in 2014, at which point Schlissel replaced her. In a statement, Coleman said that while she was “saddened by the circumstances” under which she was being called back, she was “honored” to fill the role.
“Each one of us, as members of the Board of Regents, aspire to create an environment where everyone in our community is able to thrive and achieve their best work, and where all feel safe and respected.
“We understand the decisions announced today are unexpected and this kind of abrupt change can be especially difficult. We take our constitutional role as a governing board seriously and we all agree that this decision is in the best interest of the University we care about so deeply.”Jan. 15, 2022, public statement by the University of Michigan Board of Regents
Word came last autumn that Schlissel was going to step down in 2023, one year earlier than previously expected, so the university was already getting ready to search for a new president.
“…That process has now been accelerated,” the board wrote.
The board expects to find someone to take over as president on a permanent basis as early as this summer.