The University of Michigan Board of Regents has voted unanimously to immediately remove Mark S. Schlissel as president of the university and to appoint former president Mary Sue Coleman as interim president.
In a Jan. 15 letter to Schlissel, the board said it took the action to remove him for cause after receiving information about an alleged sexual affair with a subordinate and determining that interactions with the subordinate “were inconsistent with promoting the dignity and reputation of the university.”
The board will affirm its decision during the Feb. 17 meeting on the Ann Arbor campus.
In a message to the university community, members of the university’s publicly elected board said the president’s removal was made with “great disappointment,” but also that the U-M community and the state “deserve as complete an understanding of this situation as possible.”
Regents wrote that “in the interest of full public disclosure, we have released dozens of Dr. Schlissel’s communications that illustrate this inappropriate conduct, as well as the letter that our board sent to Dr. Schlissel explaining our decision.”
“These emails demonstrate that you were communicating with the subordinate through the University of Michigan email system using an inappropriate tone and inappropriate language. They also demonstrate that you were using official University of Michigan business as a means to pursue and carry out a personal relationship with the subordinate,” the letter states.
“Your conduct … is particularly egregious considering your knowledge of and involvement in addressing incidents of harassment by University of Michigan personnel, and your declared commitment to work to ‘free’ the university community of sexual harassment or other improper conduct.”
Schlissel came to U-M in 2014 from Brown University where he had served as provost. He announced last fall that he would leave the U-M presidency in June 2023.
Regents said in their message they had “full confidence” that Coleman, as interim president, “will provide the leadership our university community will need during this time of transition.”
Coleman served 12 years as U-M president from 2002 to 2014, and before that was president of the University of Iowa from 1995 to 2002. After retiring from U-M, she served as president of the Association of American Universities from 2016 to 2020. The AAU is an association of America’s leading research universities based in Washington, D.C.
“While saddened by the circumstances, I am honored to be asked to again serve the University of Michigan,” Coleman said. “When I left the U-M campus at the end of my presidency in 2014, I said serving this great university was the most rewarding experience of my professional life. I’m happy to serve again in this important interim role.”
Regents also said they will move quickly to launch the search for the university’s 15th president.
“As has previously been communicated, we had already planned to search for the next president in the coming year,” the board message said, “and that process has now been accelerated. We will soon provide updates to the university community as the process takes shape.”