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UM faculty leaders: No-confidence vote against Schlissel should have passed

The Detroit News

Top members of the University of Michigan's Faculty Senate on Friday argued this week's vote of no confidence over President Mark Schlissel should have passed.

The leaders said abstention votes should not have been included, and the symbolic resolution against the university's president should have not failed.

UM President Mark Schlissel

In an email Friday, Senate Chair Colleen Conway said she, the senate secretary and the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs "have conclusively and unanimously determined that the University Senate Rules on voting using Robert’s Rules of Order for interpretation leads all of us to the same conclusion. Abstentions should not have been counted as votes, and (the motion) should have passed."

On Wednesday, the UM Faculty Senate took a vote of no confidence in Schlissel following several controversies since students returned to campus amid the COVID-19 pandemic. However, faculty leaders are seeking a legal opinion as to whether the vote passed or failed.

The vote was 957 in favor and 953 against, with 184 abstentions.

Professor David Potter, the interim senate secretary, announced the vote had failed to pass during a virtual meeting. He factored in the total number of votes cast and said more than half did not vote for no confidence. But Conway did not call the vote one way or another.

"We ask for your patience and understanding while we not only discussed how abstentions should be handled, but we also discussed in depth our concerns about the lack of accessibility to voting experienced by some of our colleagues," Conway wrote Friday.

Reached by email Friday, UM spokesman Rick Fitzgerald noted "all faculty senate actions are advisory in nature."

He also said the results of a sentiment ballot the faculty issued for those who could not be at the meeting "shows support for the president and for the university's approach to the public health-informed fall semester."

The abstention votes "do not impact the voting results from the September 16 meeting," Conway said Friday. The faculty senate's bylaws only allow votes that occur in meetings.

A day after the Wednesday meeting, the Board of Regents voiced support for Schlissel.

The school president has said he wants to address faculty concerns and noted, "I need to do more to engage with our community during this pandemic and trust needs to be rebuilt."

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