‘No confidence’ vote on U of M president fails

The University of Michigan | Susan J. Demas

A vote for “no confidence” in University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel and his administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic on campus failed during a Faculty Senate meeting Wednesday.

I really feel stronger and stronger [that there’s] an erosion of trust across the campus and I’m looking for ways to rebuild the trust so that we can tap into our unanimity of the institution,” Schlissel said during a virtual town hall with Provost Susan Collins on Tuesday.

University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel | Wikimedia Commons

The intent of the meeting was to discuss a number of issues the university has been facing in the last few months, with a focus on the mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis.

However, with a 915-991-198 vote on Wednesday, the faculty senate shot down the “no confidence” resolution, which states Schlissel “has yet to produce a model, analysis, or scientific data predicting the risk levels for the Fall 2020 reopening plans.”

Tuesday’s conversation was moderated by professor Scott Page, who teaches in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts and the Stephen M. Ross School of Business.

Graduate Employees’ Organization and resident hall workers have been striking for nearly two weeks and students are quarantined and isolated in on-campus housing without necessary cleaning supplies, food or microwaves. 

Schlissel announced he had filed a motion asking the Washtenaw County Circuit Court to intervene with the strikes.

Collins said that in regards to the quarantined students, the university has “not done nearly as well as we needed to.” 

Rough conditions for students in ‘bare bones’ U of M quarantine housing 

“It’s not excusable that any of the students who are quarantined or in isolation aren’t well supported with all of the supplies that they need,”she said. “It is a stressful, difficult situation. That should not have happened. I apologize for that.”

Members of the faculty senate who supported the resolution also asserted that he ignored recommendations from the Ethics and Privacy Committee that said it would be unsafe for the university to open as planned based on the “the reasonable standard for safety.”

“In hindsight, one of the errors I made is I took a very experts-focused approach that became narrow,” Schlissel said. “What I lost sight of was the breadth of how the campus is experienced and the breadth of the wisdom of all the different components of the campus. If I had to go back to March or April again, I would have developed other mechanisms to get more and broader types of input.”

According to U of M COVID-19 data, the university had tested 13,520 people for COVID since March 8, with 386 positive tests.

That includes 57 positive tests in the last 14 days. 

U of M president under fire for homophobic comment to justify reopening plans, lack of testing

But Schlissel has held steadfast on his decision to not implement mass testing, saying that U of M is doing better than other public universities across the state, such as Grand Valley State University, Michigan State University and Central Michigan University. 

“The students must be behaving themselves on average. … The faculty is obviously protecting themselves, as we are not having many cases there,” Schlissel said. 

The Ethics and Privacy Committee included in its report that COVID-19 would have graver effects on marginalized communities on campus, but Schlissel said that by reopening campus it was creating a more equitable experience for students. 

“There is a real equity issue of who can live in town and have a good time while fully remote if we are not providing housing for kids who also need an education but don’t have other great options,” he said. “So it’s a complicated problem. We gave as much flexibility as we could. We are open to new ideas.”

Allison Donahue
Allison R. Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.