Judge rips UM for shielding Schlissel from scrutiny

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — The University of Michigan's legal team is more concerned about shielding President Mark Schlissel from scrutiny than fairly handling sexual misconduct cases involving students, a federal judge said Monday.

U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow filed a sharply worded response less than one week after the university successfully delayed a hearing in a civil lawsuit filed by a graduate student accused of sexual misconduct. The judge had ordered Schlissel to attend the hearing in open court in Detroit and rejected a request by the university to reconsider, citing public interest in the case.

The university's appeal, however, has indefinitely delayed the hearing.

"The university’s attorneys appear to be more concerned with keeping the president out of the public eye than with prompt resolution of this case and providing a fair process for adjudicating sexual misconduct claims," Tarnow wrote.

The student, identified as John Doe, is suing the university, which froze the student's undergraduate degree and academic transcript until Tarnow intervened.

Doe denies any wrongdoing and said the sex was consensual after the pair watched movies in a dorm room, his lawyer said. Alcohol and drugs weren’t involved.

The judge’s filing demonstrates why UM is concerned about fairness as the case continues in federal court, university spokeswoman Kim Broekhuizen wrote in an email to The News.

“The university's president was fully prepared to attend a settlement conference and would have done so had Judge Tarnow not changed his mind less than forty-eight hours before and decided to hold a ‘settlement conference’ in open court,” Broekhuizen wrote. “…Judge Tarnow has not explained how a settlement conference open to the public will better serve to bring about a resolution of this matter than a private discussion between the parties and the court.”

The university’s hearing procedure for Title IX complaints is legal and fair, Broekhuizen added.

A federal appeals court, in a major decision last year, said the university must allow cross-examination in sexual misconduct hearings.


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