Friday, October 15, 2021

University of Michigan president to step down year early, advocacy groups react

October 12, 2021
<p>A sign reads &quot;Please Stay Off The Field&quot; in a nearly empty big house on Oct. 31, 2020.</p>

A sign reads "Please Stay Off The Field" in a nearly empty big house on Oct. 31, 2020.

Photo by Alyte Katilius | The State News

Spotlight Michigan is a group of advocates working together to expose the crimes of sexual abusers like late University of Michigan doctor Robert Anderson, as well as, the sexual assault culture that exists on college campuses, according to Spotlight Michigan Spokesperson Emily Bir. 

In addition, Spotlight Michigan is calling on U of M’s leadership to be held accountable and make changes to prevent these crimes from ever happening again. 

The organization released a statement on Oct. 5, following the announcement that University of Michigan President Mark S. Schlissel will be stepping down from his role in June 2023.

“Today’s announcement is a relief to many,” the statement said. “It’s finally time for those in power that have enabled predators like Dr. Robert Anderson, to leave campus. We are hopeful this change in leadership allows for future policy changes on campus that will stop abusers like Dr. Robert Anderson from ever walking the streets of Ann Arbor again.”

According to an announcement from Schlissel to the University of Michigan community, sent Oct. 5, Schlissel will resign from his position one year before his original contract is up. 

“After discussion with the Board of Regents, I decided that this timing is appropriate,” Schlissel wrote in the statement. “The new horizon gives the Board time to consult with our community, think about the future and thoroughly plan and conduct a search for my successor, while allowing us to continue momentum on important and time-critical efforts that are underway.”

On Sept. 30, more than five years after the Indianapolis Star broke the story on ex-MSU doctor Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse, survivors of Nassar and Anderson met to testify in favor of a legislative package to help sexual assault survivors report their abusers. 

“We certainly support any measures that allow for greater accountability and justice for the survivors,” Bir said. “I believe that those pieces of legislation do that, so we’re supportive.” 

Bir said Spotlight Michigan is working with other advocates and survivors to push policies to create change, and hold leadership accountable, to prevent future sexual assault crimes from happening.

“We’re going to be doing a lot of demonstrations and protests in Ann Arbor,” Bir said. “We’re working with student advocates across the state.”

Bir said the organization participated in an event outside of the Board of Regents meeting on Sept. 23, during which the board came up with the deal to end Schlissel’s contract.

“We probably had 100 students and Anderson survivors there,” Bir said. “So we’re constantly active on campus and encouraging other students to get involved with our activities as well.”

When MSU conducted its search for President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. in 2018 and 2019 it went through a series of steps which included; forming a presidential search committee, identifying candidates and conducting initial interviews, conducting final interviews with the board of trustees, and finally, announcing the new president, according to an article released by MSU Today in June 2018.

According to an article published by Michigan State University Extension, Michigan has 15 public universities, of which only Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University's board members are elected. The other universities' board members are appointed by the governor.

Vice President and University Spokesperson Emily Guerrant said board members who are elected serve for eight years, and elections are held every two years.

"It's kind of like the seats themselves are on a rotation," Guerrant said.

Additionally, University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank announced Oct. 11 on Twitter, she will be stepping down at the end of the academic year to become the Northwestern University president. Blank will be the first woman to serve as president in the history of the University.


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