University of Michigan regents back Schlissel after support challenged

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

The day after faculty members split on a vote of no-confidence over University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel, the Board of Regents took a stand in support of him.

University of Michigan's President Mark Schlissel speaks to graduates during commencement on Saturday, May 4, 2019. 
Max Ortiz, The Detroit News

At the beginning of the board's regular meeting on Thursday, Chairwoman Denise Ilitch read a statement on behalf of the regents.

"Our board supports President Schlissel and the administration as they continue to lead our university through these tremendous challenges," Ilitch said.

"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."

Ilitch began her statement by saying "people are concerned and frightened" over the university's reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The board hears this, the administration hears this," she said. "We know the university needs to communicate better and do better. Over the previous few weeks, we've heard from stakeholders during these unprecedented times, students, faculty, administration, staff, GEO, RAs, parents and our community as a whole. We've heard your concerns, and we will continue to listen."

She ended by saying the board appreciates the efforts of everyone working to make the UM community safe.

"We are committed to following the science and utilizing the very best public health, medical, and scientific resources, and we will continue to adjust as the facts and science dictate," she said. 

Her statement followed a statement by Schlissel, who has faced a flurry of controversial issues since students returned to campus amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including Wednesday's split vote of no confidence by the UM Faculty Senate.

Schlissel said he wanted to address concerns about COVID-19 raised by faculty.

"I need to do more to engage with our community during this pandemic and trust needs to be rebuilt," the UM president said.

The UM Faculty Senate's vote Wednesday was 957 in favor and 953 against, with 184 abstentions.

The unprecedented vote came after tensions escalated between administrators, students, staff and faculty amid the return to campus during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Graduate student instructors and resident advisers had been on strike, and faculty expressed concerns about safety and transparency. The handling of sexual misconduct allegations against former Provost Martin Philbert is also a key concern. 

Other faculty said they have been appalled at the court intervention sought by the administrators in the strike, which ended Thursday.