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Fired U of Michigan president could stay as faculty member

Dive Brief:

  • Mark Schlissel, who was fired from the University of Michigan presidency after allegedly having an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate, may remain at the institution as a tenured faculty member. 
  • The regent board voided Schlissel’s presidential contract because it fired him for cause, but he retains tenured professorships with the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, as well as the university’s medical school, the institution said. 
  • However, an investigation continues into whether Schlissel misused university money to support his alleged affair, the Detroit Free Press reported. It’s unclear how the investigation’s findings would affect Schlissel’s employment. 

Dive Insight:

Regents’ abrupt firing of Schlissel earlier this month shocked the U of Michigan campus. The former president was found to have violated the university’s policy concerning employee and supervisor relationships, a particularly flagrant offense because the institution had been embroiled in several sexual misconduct scandals over the last few years.

Martin Philbert, the university’s former provost, sexually harrased women for decades, according to a university-comissioned investigation in 2020. The following year, another review found that a late university doctor, Robert Anderson, had sexually assaulted hundreds of students over nearly 40 years. 

The regents wrote in a letter to Schlissel that his conduct was “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 or other improper conduct.” 

However, while Schlissel’s presidential contract is nullified, his employment agreement entitles him to keep a tenured faculty position, university spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald said in an email. 

The departments Schlissel would be joining are determining what his initial duties would be, Fitzgerald said.

“This is the normal process for any faculty member returning to faculty duties from an administrative appointment,” Fitzgerald said.

Schlissel’s voided contract called for him to earn as a faculty member no less than 50% of his base pay in his final year as president, which was $927,000 a year. It also called for him to receive $2 million to set up a laboratory. 

The university sent him a new employment offer, which he had not accepted as of Friday. Under it, he would earn $185,000 annually, according to the Free Press.

A medical scientist, Schlissel previously worked as Brown University’s provost before taking over at the U of Michigan in 2014. 

While Schlissel retains his tenured position, he could still be removed under a university bylaw

It specifies a procedure for dismissing tenured faculty for reasons such as “substantial and manifest neglect of duty” or “personal conduct that substantially impairs the individual’s fulfillment of institutional responsibilities.”

A high-ranking academic administrator, like the provost, must initiate this process.


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