The University of Michigan and former president Mark Schlissel have reached a settlement agreement that grants Schlissel a one-year leave of absence, pays him for earned but unpaid deferred compensation, and includes an apology for his poor judgment and the disruption it caused.
The agreement also resolves any matters that may have been subject to arbitration under the previous employment agreement, avoids potential legal fees for both parties and allows the university to move forward.
Schlissel said he wanted to apologize to the university community “for the poor judgment I exercised by engaging in a close personal relationship with a university employee” noting that the relationship was “entirely consensual” and was “never physical.”
“At a time when we have been trying to strengthen the bonds of trust at the university, it is particularly important that campus leaders avoid even the appearance of impropriety.” He said he was “sorry for any disruption this has caused to the conduct of U-M’s important mission.”
The agreement, signed April 7, calls for the university to pay Schlissel $462,000 in deferred compensation that he earned during his time as president but has not yet been paid.
He also will be paid $463,000, an amount equal to half his presidential pay, during a one-year administrative leave that began May 1. A year of paid administrative leave is the typical transition between an administrative appointment and return to the faculty.
It also is common practice in higher education for presidents to be granted faculty positions, with tenure, beginning with their service as presidents. Schlissel, a professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology, and of microbiology and immunology, with tenure, retains his faculty appointments, granted in 2014.
As already determined by the leadership of his departments, the annual salary for his faculty appointments will be $185,000. His responsibilities as a faculty member have not yet been determined.
I like this settlement. It says that a person can make a mistake, admit the mistake, accept whatever penalty is assigned, but not have his or her whole life’s work and contribution erased for that mistake. I think that is the grace we all want and deserve as fallible humans.
Our current society has to remember that more than one thing can be true at a time. President Schlissel used poor judgement while also giving strong (some would even say great) leadership during a pandemic and so many social crises. His contribution mattered and UM should be able to keep him in the fold without him being ostracized or relegated to history.