U-M investigating whether Schlissel misused university funds in support of relationship

·2 min read
Mark Schlissel, president of the University of Michigan, in his office during an interview in the Fleming Administration Building on the U-M campus on June 16, 2017, in Ann Arbor.
Mark Schlissel, president of the University of Michigan, in his office during an interview in the Fleming Administration Building on the U-M campus on June 16, 2017, in Ann Arbor.

The University of Michigan is investigating whether former President Mark Schlissel misused university funds in support of his relationship with a female employee, two sources with knowledge of the investigation told the Free Press on Sunday night.

The look into how money was spent is part of an ongoing review of Schlissel and his conduct, first prompted by an anonymous tip that reached the Board of Regents in December. The school's board fired Schlissel on Saturday night for violating the university's supervisor relationship policy.

It was unclear what funds the investigators might be examining. The sources requested anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.

New York law firm Jenner & Block is continuing the investigation, U-M spokesman Rick Fitzgerald confirmed to the Free Press. He did not answer questions about the scope of the work.

Schlissel has been unable to be reached for comment by the Free Press.

He made $927,000 a year.

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The university posted its contract with the law firm on its website Sunday. It was signed on Dec. 23, although the university began working with the law firm as soon as the university received a tip that Schlissel was involved with a female university employee on Dec. 8.

"After an investigation, we learned that Dr. Schlissel, over a period of years, used his university email account to communicate with that subordinate in a manner inconsistent with the dignity and reputation of the university," the board said in an announcement of Schlissel's firing.

The law firm charges the university per hour. The firm's standard rate was $1,100 in 2021 and $1,250 in 2022, but is giving a 15% discount to the school. No timeline has been given for wrapping up the investigation.

According to emails posted by the university Saturday night in a stated spirit of transparency, Schlissel wrote to the female employee regularly and in familiar tones, including in October 2019 when he emailed about receiving a box of knishes. The woman said in reply that she liked the doughy snack food. Schlissel replied again: Can I "lure you to visit with the promise of a knish?"

The decision to fire him was made behind closed doors Saturday morning, without a public vote. It was effective immediately.

David Jesse was a 2020-21 Spencer Education Reporting Fellow at Columbia University and the 2018 Education Writer Association's best education reporter. Contact David Jesse: 313-222-8851 or djesse@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter: @reporterdavidj. Subscribe to the Detroit Free Press.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: U-M investigating whether Schlissel misused university funds