The University of Michigan has fired school president Mark Schlissel after an investigation into his relationship with a subordinate employee.
His removal was effective immediately, the University of Michigan Board of Regents said in a statement posted on the school website on Saturday.
It said board members had learned about Schlissel’s alleged “inappropriate relationship with a university employee” from an anonymous complaint on December 8 last year.
An investigation revealed that 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 board said.
The board said it had released Schlissel’s emails “in the interest of full public disclosure” to “illustrate this inappropriate conduct.”
In the letter to Schlissel, dated January 15, the board wrote: “As you know, the Regents received an anonymous complaint regarding an alleged sexual affair between you and a subordinate.
“An investigation has revealed that your interactions with the subordinate were inconsistent with promoting the dignity and reputation of the University of Michigan.”
The letter also included details of emails exchanged between Schlissel and the employee, who was not identified.
The employee had written that her “heart hurts” in a July 1, 2021, email to Schlissel, according to the board.
“I know. mine too,” Schlissel responded, adding that “this is my fault” and that he was “in pain too.”
The board said the subordinate employee had said “Oh yes!” in an email to Schlissel on January 9, 2021. His response was: “Love it when you say that.”
On November 4, 2021, Schlissel emailed the subordinate about a University of Michigan basketball game he was scheduled to attend as part of his official duties as president, the board said.
In that email, the board said he “expressed disappointment” that he was not sitting with the subordinate, writing “the only reason I agreed to go was to go with you. there is a conspiracy against me.”
The emails released by the board, with the recipient’s name redacted, show Schlissel sent the employee an August 2019 article from The New Yorker headlined “Sexual Fantasies of Everyday New Yorkers.”
In the letter, the board told 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.”
Citing a scandal involving the university’s former provost, the board said: “For example, with regard to the actions of Martin Philbert, on August 3, 2020, you sent an email to the entire University of Michigan community, writing that: ‘The highest priority for our regents and leadership team is to make our community safe for all.’
“You also declared to the community that your leadership would ‘determine what we need to do to address the fear of retaliation in our community and build a culture that does not accept misconduct or harassment at any level.’ Accordingly, 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.”
Former University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman has been appointed interim president. Her appointment and Schlissel’s removal will be affirmed during the board’s formal session on February 17.
“While saddened by the circumstances, I am honored to be asked to again serve the University of Michigan,” Coleman said in a statement. “When I left the U-M campus at the end of my presidency in 2014, I said serving this great university was the most rewarding experience of my professional life. I’m happy to serve again in this important interim role.”
Schlissel had a base salary of $927,000 a year, according to the Associated Press.
He announced in October last year that he would step down in June 2023, a year before his contract was to expire. It came after the Detroit Free Press reported that his relationship with the the university’s Board of Regents had deteriorated.
Schlissel has been contacted for comment.