Faculty Senate reverses Schlissel no-confidence vote finding


Leaders of the University of Michigan’s Faculty Senate have reversed an earlier statement and determined that a vote of no confidence in President Mark Schlissel’s leadership narrowly passed at a Sept. 16 meeting.

Meanwhile, that motion and a motion of no confidence in the university’s fall semester reopening plan did not achieve majorities in separate online “sentiment ballots” cast by Faculty Senate members and members of the clinical faculty.

The revised ruling on the Schlissel no-confidence vote came after some Senate members questioned the inclusion of 184 abstentions in the original vote tally, which meant the motion failed to achieve a majority of those voting, even though it drew 957 “yes” votes and 953 “no” votes.

“Abstentions should not have been counted as votes, and Motion 6 should have passed,” Chair Colleen Conway said in a Sept. 18 email to Faculty Senate members.

The separate motion of no confidence in the university’s fall semester reopening plan failed 915-991, with 198 abstaining, at the Sept. 16 meeting. The no-confidence motions were among several considered at the virtual meeting, which took place via Zoom and drew more than 2,000 viewers.

The “sentiment ballots” were open from 10 a.m. Sept. 17 through 10 a.m. Sept. 18, and were designed to gather the views of Senate members unable to attend the meeting, as well as U-M’s clinical faculty, who are not Senate members.

Those results do not affect the outcome of the votes taken at the Senate meeting, and all three votes are advisory in nature.

The Board of Regents expressed support for Schlissel at its Sept. 17 meeting.

“Our board supports President Schlissel and the administration as they continue to lead our university through these tremendous challenges,” Chair Denise Ilitch said in a statement made on behalf of the full board. “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.”

In her email, Conway also said the Faculty Senate is committed to working with U-M’s information technology team to address accessibility issues that arose during the electronic voting process at its Sept. 16 meeting.

“Accessibility had been tested in advance of the meeting by University IT team members. However, a software update after the testing was complete led to an unanticipated lapse in accessibility,” Conway said.

A breakdown of the voting on seven motions considered at the Sept. 16 meeting, and their results in the separate “sentiment votes,” is as follows:

Motion 1

Allow the Faculty Senate to conduct electronic meetings.

  • Faculty Senate meeting — Yes 1,933, No 37 (35 abstaining), passed
  • Faculty Senate sentiment — Yes 1,981, No 64 (98 abstaining)
  • Clinical faculty sentiment — Yes 623, No 11 (56 abstaining)

Motion 2

No confidence in the university’ reopening plan.

  • Faculty Senate meeting — Yes 915, No 991 (198 abstaining), failed
  • Faculty Senate sentiment — Yes 969, No 1,074 (100 abstaining)
  • Clinical faculty sentiment — Yes 290, No 333 (67 abstaining)

Motion 3

Demand that the university “implement a permanent policy requiring the administration to engage in substantive consultation on all matters relevant to faculty (including lecturers) with existing bodies of faculty governance at the programmatic, departmental, unit and university levels, including but not limited to the faculty’s representative bodies, SACUA, LEO and the Senate Assembly.”

  • Faculty Senate meeting — Yes 1,328, No 615 (179 abstaining), passed
  • Faculty Senate sentiment — Yes 1,442, No 589 (112 abstaining)
  • Clinical faculty sentiment — Yes 459, No 136 (95 abstaining)

Motion 4

Call for faculty, staff, students and administrators to “engage constructively together” to overcome the challenges related to the pandemic and “work together to deliver the educational mission of the university to the fullest extent possible.”

  • Faculty Senate meeting — Yes 826, No 903 (354 abstaining), failed
  • Faculty Senate sentiment — Yes 1,162, No 743 (238 abstaining)
  • Clinical faculty sentiment — Yes 568, No 55 (67 abstaining)

Motion 5

Call upon the administration, and specifically Schlissel and Provost Susan M. Collins, to “release details about the models and assumptions that have guided university planning for the current ‘in-residence fall term,’ including the justification for the testing protocols adopted, the evidentiary ‘circuit-breakers’ that would cause the administration to discontinue current plans, and the arrangements the university will make to reduce the risk of spreading infection beyond the university community in such an eventuality or at the projected end of term.”

  • Faculty Senate meeting — Yes 1,635, No 293 (118 abstaining), passed
  • Faculty Senate sentiment — Yes 1,666, No 317 (160 abstaining)
  • Clinical faculty sentiment — Yes 493, No 96 (101 abstaining)

Motion 6

No confidence in President Schlissel’s leadership.

  • Faculty Senate meeting — Yes 957, No 953 (184 abstaining), passed
  • Faculty Senate sentiment — Yes 942, No 1,092 (109 abstaining)
  • Clinical faculty sentiment — Yes 249, No 331 (110 abstaining)

Motion 7

Demand that the university withdraw its request for an injunction and restraining order against GEO and make a good faith offer to GEO to end the strike. (GEO accepted the university’s offer and ended the strike later Sept. 16.)

  • Faculty Senate meeting — Yes 934, No 360 (100 abstaining), passed
  • Faculty Senate sentiment — Yes 1,135, No 579 (429 abstaining)
  • Clinical faculty sentiment — Yes 335, No 179 (176 abstaining)

The Faculty Senate is part of U-M’s central faculty governance system. It has about 4,300 members and includes all U-M professorial faculty, librarians, full-time research faculty, executive officers and deans.



  1. Silke-Maria Weineck
    on September 21, 2020 at 3:52 pm

    Important to note that the “sentiment ballot” carries no formal weight–it was basically an online poll, with all the methodological flaws implied, and arranging the formal expression of the will of the faculty senate alongside those online polls is a bit of obfuscation. The discrepancies on motion 4 tell you how important it is to be present for the discussion of motions that may not be what they appear to be.

    That said, it may be of concern to the administration that in this online poll, 46% of clinical faculty, most of whom work in the medical and nursing schools, voted that they had no confidence in the re-opening plan.

    Does anybody wonder what the totals would be if the senate office had polled everybody teaching, including lecturers and GSIs?

  2. Kirsten Herold
    on September 21, 2020 at 9:02 pm

    Yes, I note the (unintended?) irony here. A few days after the faculty senate votes, by a large majority, that all faculty INCLUDING LECTURES (stated parenthetically) need to be included in the decision making of this institution, that same faculty senate decides to poll tenure-track faculty who did not/ could not attend the meeting, as well as clinical faculty. Yet that same faculty senate does not poll lecturers, in spite of our repeated requests — and in spite of the fact that hundreds of our members attended the meeting, even though we were sent the wrong zoom link.

    So what are we to make of that? That the motion was a total joke, another example of empty virtue signaling with no expectation of it having any effect? I guess it would be naive of us to expect any change in the culture of this institution since, really, the tenured faculty are only about protecting their own privilege, and not about any actual inclusion of the people who teach more than 50% of the classes.

    Kirsten Herold
    LEO VP

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