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The University of Michigan President Fired for Affair with Subordinate

The University of Michigan has received a lot of press in the last few years over its handling of sexual harassment allegations against university officials and staff. The most well-known example occurred in 2018 when former provost Martin Philbert was the subject of an investigation by WilmerHale that uncovered two decades of misconduct, much of which was known to some university officials. There have been half a dozen more sexual harassment allegations brought against University faculty and staff since that time.

The Board of Regents for the University of Michigan cited President Mark Schlissel’s knowledge and involvement in many of the allegations against these other individuals as part of what made his own conduct so egregious. The Board said, “[T]here 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.”

The Board released 118 pages of emails and texts between Schlissel and the university employee with whom he was involved to the press. Schlissel sent and received all of the emails on his official university email account. Schlissel wrote about late-blooming love, issues over scheduling conflicts to meet up with her, and sent her an article about the “Sexual Fantasies of Everyday New Yorkers.” The board received an anonymous complaint about Schlissel’s relationship in December 2021 prompting its investigation. The university has a policy prohibiting supervisors from having intimate relationships with supervisees. The relationship policy was put into place just last year in response to the allegations against Philbert. Schlissel’s contract also includes a morals clause that precludes him from conduct that impairs the reputation of the university.