CBS Detroit – Updated 9/17/2020- The University of Michigan faculty senate held a vote Wednesday concerning the leadership of President Mark Schlissel. According to the Detroit Free Press, the vote to declare no-confidence in Mark Schlissel’s leadership came about in the wake of hiring provost Martin Philbert (who used his position to sexually harass graduate students and employees), and for Schlissel’s decisions regarding COVID-19.
Many are questioning the decision to open the campus up this fall, graduate students and student residence hall workers who were on strike, and football players and coaches, which include Jim Harbaugh, are questioning Schlissel’s decision to vote for suspending the Big Ten season.
While Wednesday’s vote for no-confidence is a symbolic one, it speaks volumes of the turmoil among staff at the University of Michigan. As the vote was 915 in favor and 991 against, with 198 abstentions. UofM’s faculty senate rules dictate there must be a majority over 50% to pass. The abstention votes are the only thing that prevented the no-confidence vote.
Today in a report by the University Record, UofM Faculty Senate leaders are reviewing the results of the vote. What is up for debate is if the abstentions should have been included in the tally. Faculty Senate Chair Collen Conway told the University Record this is the first electronic meeting they’ve had, and need to determine how the Senate rules apply to online meetings. , “If we decide, based on the review, that the 184 do not ‘count’ towards those voting, then we will issue a statement changing the vote.”, Conway said, adding it may take a few days to decide.
Stephen Ward, an associate professor who submitted the motion to declare a no-confidence vote said “He has engaged in evasion, misdirection, distortion and falsehoods,”. While Peter Washabaugh, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, and associate professor of aerospace engineering told the University Record, “I’ve seen this president take the correct path, even though it might be difficult or uncomfortable. … I believe he has demonstrated thoughtfulness and caring actions,”.
According to Silke-Maria Weineck, a professor of German studies said, “contact tracers are ovrwhelmed… parents are scared. The city is worried. Graduate students, residential advisers and dining hall workers walked off the job. All of them demand a better pandemic plan, one finally responsive to all of their voices.”
2020 and Coronavirus Pandemic hasn’t been good for the University of Michigan. As on a whole the entire organization that includes its many campuses and Michigan Medicine, it was reported in April that Schlissel expected losses this year of $400 million to $1 billion dollars. He has had to cut expenses, salaries, and lay off and/or furlough staff.
In light of Wednesday’s vote, Schlissel and his staff acknowledge there needs to be greater communication at UofM. In a report by the Free Press, Spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald said in a statement, “As you may know, Faculty Senate votes are advisory in nature. President Schlissel already has committed to increasing his engagement with the faculty across all of our 19 schools and colleges.
In a report by The University Record, Schlissel and Provost Susan M. Collins said in an online townhall that they plan “to restore trust and transparency moving forward.” They acknowledged how the university has handled the hybrid fall semester with COVID-19 and matters relating to racial injustice. With Provost Collins saying they plan to restore trust with the campus community, with examing campus policing, making UofM’s Public Safety Division a national model.
According to the University Record, Schlissel said in the online town hall, “I’m looking or groping for ways to rebuild the trust so we can tap into our unanimity of purpose and really take the institution forward through this generational challenge,” Schlissel said during the town hall. “For me it’s an issue of trying to find ways to be more engaged with the faculty, more communicative, involve more faculty, get a broader array of input and have them know me and my thinking better.”
Along with people questioning Schlissel’s decisions during the pandemic, and a strike among graduate student works that just got resolved on Friday, students are also upset about the conditions of quarantine housing and a canceled plan that would send armed police officers to off-campus housing to enforce the university’s no-partying policy.
The Board of Regents, whom President Schlissel reports to, will meet in a public session Thursday. The Faculty Senate is part of UofM’s central governance system with about 4,300 members which include faculty, librarians, full-time research faculty, executive officers, and deans.
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