ANN ARBOR, MI — The University of Michigan’s faculty senate was divided on a vote of ‘no confidence’ in President Mark Schlissel Wednesday afternoon.
According to multiple sources, the vote was 957 in favor, 953 against and 184 abstentions. The vote requires 50% of all votes to be in favor to pass.
While the resolution appeared to not pass Wednesday, the senate was still discussing how to count abstentions. The vote tally — and whether or not the no-confidence resolution is ultimately adopted — could still change. But that much remained unclear Wednesday night.
The resolution faults Schlissel for not using scientific data predicting the risk levels for fall 2020 reopening plans. The resolution also says he failed in his handling of the sexual misconduct allegations against former provost Martin Philbert, “who was dismissed for sexual misconduct that was known to members of the university for decades,” the resolution says.
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The vote on the resolution came while members of the Graduate Employees’ Organization are on strike, demanding a safe and just response to the coronavirus pandemic, including a robust testing plan, the universal right to work remotely for graduate employees and access to a disarmed and demilitarized workplace, among others.
The resolution of no confidence in Schlissel says he did not use a report by the Ethics and Privacy Committee — which was appointed by Schlissel — to inform reopening plans, did not respond to the committee and did not make the report public, the resolution says. Schlissel has also “explicitly refused to accept personal responsibility for the consequences of the administration’s decisions,” the resolution states.
Members of faculty senate — professorial staff, research faculty, library staff, executive officers of the university, the dean of each school and others designated by the Board of Regents — voted on a number of motions, including a vote of confidence in the university’s reopening plan, which failed by a vote of 915 in favor, 991 against and 198 abstaining. The motion said that the Ethics and Privacy Committee appointed by Schlissel has declared that the reopening plan does not meet “the reasonable standard for safety recommended by our report.”
UM reopened with a mix of online, in-person and hybrid classes with 78% of credits being taught online.
According to UM’s COVID-19 dashboard, there have been 386 positive tests since March 8 and 13,520 tests administered. In the last two weeks, 57 people have tested positive and 2,918 tests have been carried out.
Schlissel and UM Provost Susan Collins held a public conversation Sept. 15 where they addressed the university’s pandemic response and structural racism, among other topics. They both acknowledged that there were faults in their reopening plan and areas where they could have done better, such as quarantine and isolation housing.
“It’s not excusable that any of our students who are in quarantine or isolation aren’t well supported with all of the supplies they need,” Collins said. “It’s a stressful, difficult situation, and that just shouldn’t have happened.”
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During their conversation Tuesday, Schlissel said he took an “experts-focused approach that became narrow,” and he lost sight of how campus is experienced and the wisdom of all the different components of campus. His main takeaway, Schlissel said, was to do more communicating with different types of people and to hear what’s on people’s minds rather than presuming.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a new headline and information that reflects how senate leadership is still looking into how to handle the abstentions.
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