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U of Michigan Faculty Vote No Confidence in President

September 21, 2020
 
 

The University of Michigan Faculty Senate voted no confidence in President Mark Schlissel on Sept. 16. The results were close, with 957 faculty voting in favor of the motion, 953 voting against and 184 abstentions. All faculty members at the university are members of the Faculty Senate.

Faculty have said the administration has not been transparent regarding reopening decisions and has not released any modeling to estimate the risk that comes with reopening. Similar concerns about reopening, testing and support pushed graduate students at the university to strike Sept. 8. Resident assistants at the university are still on strike regarding COVID-19 protections

“Staff, graduate students, undergraduate students, and faculty have exhausted all channels of communication to express their grave concerns about the re-opening plans, and President Schlissel has shown little substantial changes in policy in response to expressed concerns,” the motion reads.

The text of the motion also criticized Schlissel for comments made suggesting HIV testing led to further spread of that disease and his handling of sexual misconduct allegations against Martin Philbert. Philbert was a professor and dean of the School of Public Health and served as provost from 2017 until this past January. Schlissel has been president of Michigan since 2014.

At the Zoom meeting on Sept. 16, senate leadership originally announced that the motion failed because it did not achieve over 50 percent of the vote if abstentions were also counted as votes.

In an email to faculty, senate chair Colleen Conway said senate leadership had unanimously determined via the senate rules and Robert’s Rules of Order that abstentions should not have been counted as votes and the motion had passed. Faculty Senate votes of no confidence are largely symbolic.

The Michigan Board of Regents extended support for Schlissel in a statement. “Our board supports President Schlissel and the administration as they continue to lead our university through these tremendous challenges,” Chair Denise Ilitch said on behalf of the board at a meeting. “We know that the president and the administration will continue to listen and adapt through these challenges, honor our common values and advance the mission of the university.”

A spokesperson for the university previously said Schlissel has already committed to increasing engagement with faculty.

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