University President Fired After Allegedly Years-Long Sexual Affair With Subordinate
The Burton Memorial Tower stands on the central campus March 24, 2015 at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

The president of the University of Michigan was fired Saturday after it was revealed that he allegedly participated in a sexual affair with a subordinate.

Michigan‘s Board of Regents announced Saturday that it voted unanimously to remove President Mark S. Schlissel and to install former president Mary Sue Coleman to the post in the interim.

“In a Jan. 15 letter to Schlissel, the board said it took the action to remove him for cause after receiving information about an alleged sexual affair with a subordinate and determining that interactions with the subordinate ‘were inconsistent with promoting the dignity and reputation of the university,’” the statement read. The board said it would reaffirm its decision on the matter in person at its board meeting next month.

The Washington Post reported Sunday that the Board of Regents received an anonymous complaint on December 8 that Schlissel was possibly involved in an “inappropriate relationship” with an employee. An investigation found that Schlissel used his official university email account “over a period of years” to “communicate with that subordinate in a manner inconsistent with the dignity and reputation of the University.”

A letter sent directly to Schlissel by the Board included excerpts from the emails which allegedly violate university policy:

  • A email from the subordinate in January contained the phrase “Oh Yes!” Schlissel’s response, dated January 9, 2021, said, “Love it when you say that.”
  • Schlissel called the employee “sexier” in an email in September.
  • Schlissel wrote to the employee concerning a Michigan Wolverines basketball game he was scheduled to attend in an official capacity as President. In the email, he expressed disappointment with the prospect of not sitting with that employee, writing, “the only reason I agreed to go was to go with you. there is a conspiracy against me.”
  • Schlissel wrote to the employee, “[y]ou can give me a private briefing” in response to a December email on the subject of the Big Ten Championship’s “President’s Suite briefing Info.”

“These emails demonstrate that you were communicating with the subordinate through the University of Michigan email system using an inappropriate tone and inappropriate language. 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,” the Board of Regents said in its letter.

Schlissel’s conduct was particularly egregious, the Board added, because of his alleged involvement in another incident of sexual harassment involving former University Provost Martin Philbert, as well as his declared commitment to “free” the University from sexual misconduct. Schlissel declared at the time that he would “determine what we need to do to address the fear of retaliation and build a culture that does not accept misconduct or harassment at any level,” according to the letter.

The Board of Regents also said in the Saturday statement that it was releasing dozens of emails between Schlissel and the employee that “illustrate this inappropriate conduct.”

The Board of Regents added that it had “full confidence” in Coleman as interim president, saying that she “will provide the leadership our university community will need during this time of transition.”

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