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March 10, 2021 - Image 1

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The Michigan Daily

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Big Ten university leaders —

including University of Michigan
President Mark Schlissel — used
a private network exempt from
public record laws to communicate
about fall COVID-19 outbreaks
on campus and the 2020 football
season,
the
Washington
Post

reported Friday.

Through
public
records

requests, The Washington Post
accessed
emails
between
the

chancellors and presidents of Big
Ten universities. In these emails
university officials asked to move
their discussions to the Big Ten
portal, a platform hidden from the
public eye.

“Just FYI — I am working

with Big Ten staff to move
the
conversation
to
secure

Boardvantage web site we use for
league materials. Will advise,”
Schlissel wrote in an email to

other Big Ten chancellors and
presidents.

Though each individual Big Ten

university is subject to Freedom
of Information Act laws, the
conference as a whole represents
a private, third-party entity not
required to share their records.

Despite a football season ridden

with COVID-19 outbreaks and
forced game cancellations, The
Washington
Post
was
unable

to find evidence of significant
discourse involving both coaches
and
administrators.
There
is

no indication as to why Big Ten
leaders reversed their original
decision to cancel the season.

Instead, from an exchange

of emails from August 2020,
The Washington Post identified
university leaders expressing their
shared concern to not disclose any
information to the public.

“Mark (Schlissel) and others

— please note that anything that
arrives in or is sent from my
email can be requested as a public

record. I know I’m not the only one
for whom this is true,” University
of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor
Rebecca Blank wrote.

In a direct private email back

to Blank, Schlissel responded
by suggesting they delete their
emails.

“becky, if you simply delete

emails after sending, does that
relieve you of FOIA obligations?
I share your concern of course,”
Schlissel wrote.

According to The Washington

Post, there is not significant
evidence that implies either Blank

or Schlissel acted on this idea and
deleted their communications. As
Blank then informed Schlissel,
the Freedom of Information Act
prohibits
public
leaders
from

permanently
deleting
their

messages.

The Washington Post requested

the release of all emails, including
those
sent
over
the
private

platform, but was unsuccessful,
as
university
representatives

said they belong to the Big Ten
Conference. Many Freedom of
Information Act experts, including
David Cuillier, associate professor
at University of Arizona, and
Chip Stewart, professor at Texas
Christian University, said these
communications between public
leaders on a third-party server
can still be accessed by the public
under the Freedom of Information
Act.

Additionally,
senior
staff

attorney
at
the
Reporters

Committee for Freedom of the
Press and Freedom of Information

Act expert Adam Marshall said
to the Post he believed it was
“troubling and wrong” for public
leaders to try and evade public
information laws in this way.

In an email to The Michigan

Daily Friday afternoon, University
spokesman Rick Fitzgerald wrote
Schlissel uses several different
means of communication with
colleagues, and the conversations
in question were not moved to the
Big Ten portal.

“U-M President Mark Schlissel

regularly
communicates
with

the presidents of other Big Ten
universities in a variety of ways
on many topics,” Fitzgerald wrote.
“President Schlisel notes that this
was simply a conversation among
colleagues trying to help each
other by sharing information on
how to navigate a novel, shared
challenge – COVID-19 on campus.”

Daily Staff Reporter Lillian

Gooding
can
be
reached
at

goodingl@umich.edu.

michigandaily.com
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Wednesday, March 10, 2021

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INDEX
Vol. CXXX, No. 24
©2021 The Michigan Daily

N E WS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2

M I C . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

ARTS.............................6

OPINION.......................9

STATEMENT..................11

S P O R T S . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 4
michigandaily.com

For more stories and coverage, visit
Follow The Daily
on Instagram,
@michigandaily

LILLIAN GOODING

Daily Staff Reporter

Big Ten university leaders used private, third-party
platform to discuss fall reopening, football season

U-M President Mark Schlissel asked staff to move communications to keep them hidden from public eye

MADDIE FOX/Daily & ALEC COHEN/Daily

University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel and other Big Ten university leaders
communicated through a private network exempt from public record laws about campus
COVID-19 outbreaks and the 2020 football season.

Schlissel: Well-being days
don’t ‘solve the problem’
Announcements on Fall 2021 semester expected mid-March

The Michigan Daily sat down with

University President Mark Schlissel
March 2 to discuss the University of
Michigan’s fall planning, well-being
days and sexual misconduct processes.
This interview has been edited and
condensed for clarity.

Mark Schlissel: Things are

actually going well now and the
number of cases are coming down
all across the country. The number
of student cases are coming down,
and staff and faculty (cases) have
remained low. So, I just want to
compliment and thank everybody
for continuing to put up with the
incredibly disrupted lifestyle for
the sake of keeping as many people
healthy until we can vaccinate
everybody. I’m more optimistic now
than I’ve been at any point in the last
year.

We’re
also
getting
good

compliance with the mandatory
testing. Basically all of the dormitory

students are complying, and then
many off-campus students. We’re up
to about 21,000 tests a week, and the
percentage positive is quite low — it’s
below 1% positive. As it gets warmer,
it’s going to be easier too, as we’ll be
able to spend more time outdoors,
and it’s safer outside.

TMD: It’s common nowadays

in college classes for students to
be asked by their professors or
instructors to self-evaluate their
performance. As U-M’s President,
what grade would you give yourself,
out of 10, for your response to the
COVID-19 pandemic now a year
into it — especially when compared
to other institutions of higher
education?

MS: What we’re talking about

is actually a group project — it’s not
an individual project. It involves the
leadership of the campus, our medical
and public health experts, our faculty,
our staff and then all of you. It’s not a
project where any one person can be
responsible or do it alone.

We’ve
had
some
successes,

and other things haven’t gone as
well. So, amongst the good news is
students are progressing towards
their degrees. Our enrollment is

normal enrollment. Students whose
families have run into difficulty,
we’ve been able to help them stay in
school by providing special financial
aid. Our health system has done
spectacularly well. We’re the largest
public research university in the
country that was shut down during
the height of the epidemic, but we
ramped up again. Our labs are at 75%
capacity now, and we’ve published
over 1,000 papers on COVID; so, a
lot of things in that area are going
well. Our public health experts are
advising the state government — all
of the government’s plans are based
on our expertise — that feels good.

The challenge is there have been

lots of student cases in particular.
When we do the tracing of those
cases, the overwhelming majority
are due to contacts being made
off
campus,
usually
in
social

circumstances, too high density and
not being as rigorous about masks. I
wish we had fewer cases, but we’ve
only had two (brief) hospitalizations,
so I’m glad that no one’s taken more
seriously ill amongst our student
community.

‘U’ ends hiring, salary freezes

for fiscal year 2022

Board of Regents to vote on reinstating merit raise program at June meeting

Starting July 1, the University

of Michigan will end its year-
long hiring freeze and employees
will be once again eligible for a
merit raise program, after the
University halted both programs
last April in response to lost
revenue caused by the COVID-19
pandemic. The Board of Regents
will vote on reinstating these
programs at their June meeting.

At the University’s weekly

COVID-19 briefing on Feb. 26,
Provost Susan M. Collins said the
University’s financial situation is
strong despite being dependent
on how much money the state of
Michigan allocates it in 2022. Last
month, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
announced that the state budget
would offer a 2% increase for
Michigan’s
public
universities

relative to the previous fiscal year.

“2021 total application volume

is actually up about 26 percent
compared to 2020,” Collins said.
“Our current enrollment remains
steady. The financial position of
the University of Michigan has

also stabilized.”

But
Collins
said
the

University’s finances will remain
constrained as units such as
University Housing and Michigan
Athletics continue to suffer from
lost revenue. Despite that, she
said, the University is prioritizing
efforts to support faculty and staff
affected by the pandemic.

Collins
also
said
a
merit

increase program for faculty will
be implemented for the upcoming
fiscal year after the 2020 program
was scrapped due to the pandemic.

William McAllister, executive

manager for transportation and
waste management, told The
Michigan Daily that the merit
increase program reaffirmed his
confidence in the University’s
financial situation.

“To
hear
Provost
Collins

mention that there’s going to
be some sort of modest merit
increase…
further
solidified

the feelings I had about (the
University’s financial position),”
McAllister said. “It just shows
what we did as employees…
(that) made a huge difference
financially for the University,
and I think a lot of people look at

this as, ‘hey, we did our part,’ and
now the University is going to do
their part by reinstating the merit
program.”

In an email to Michigan

Medicine staff published in the
University
Record,
Marschall

Runge, executive vice president
for medical affairs, said the
hospital would reinstate several
of its own benefits programs,
including paid time off, merit and
competitive pay raises, tuition
reimbursement and departmental
professional
development

programs. Michigan Medicine
restarted its retirement match on
Jan. 1.

“You have played a critical role

in helping Michigan Medicine
return to routine operations and
a stable and positive financial
outlook for the current fiscal
year,” Runge wrote to hospital
employees.
“Thank
you
for

your ongoing commitment to
our mission of advancing care
for Michigan and the world,
especially during the peaks and
valleys of COVID-19.”

DOMINIC COLETTI

Daily Staff Reporter

Second lawsuit against U-M OIE director
alleges mishandling of Title IX case

while at University of Nebraska

First suit accused Tamiko Strickman of violating sex discrimination and civil rights law at UNL

Another lawsuit was filed Feb.

28 against Tamiko Strickman,
associate vice president of the
University of Michigan’s Office of
Institutional Equity, alleging she
and other University of Nebraska-
Lincoln personnel mishandled
a student’s sexual misconduct
report. The first lawsuit, filed in
July 2020, accused Strickman of
violating sex discrimination and
civil rights law at UNL.

The
July
2020
lawsuit

also
states
that
Strickman

was terminated from UNL in
December 2019, a claim that
both
University
of
Michigan

spokesman Rick Fitzgerald and
UNL spokesperson Leslie Reed
denied to The Daily in July. The
suit names nine current or former
UNL students as plaintiffs.

Strickman did not respond to

The Daily’s request for comment
in time for publication.

Strickman previously served

as the UNL interim Title IX
coordinator and director of the
UNL
Office
of
Institutional

Equity
and
Compliance,
but

she left in 2019 under disputed
circumstances.

The February lawsuit, filed

by
Title
IX
lawyers
Karen

Truszkowski
and
Elizabeth

Abdnour, details a new set of
allegations against Strickman and
other UNL personnel for their
handling of a former graduate
student’s
report
of
alleged

harassment. The student alleges
that a professor harassed her
while she was enrolled in a Ph.D
program at UNL. A copy of the
lawsuit was obtained by The Daily.

The new lawsuit states the

student experienced “numerous
violations of her rights” in UNL’s

reporting
and
investigation

process. Strickman is specifically
accused of pressuring the student
to drop her case, making false
statements about the investigation
to the student and ignoring
the student’s questions about
the investigation, among other
allegations.

“When Plaintiff went to the

IEC (Institutional Equity and
Compliance) office to check on
the status of her case, Strickman
made Plaintiff feel like she was the
harasser rather than the victim,”
the lawsuit reads. “Strickman
would speak to Plaintiff in an
angry tone that made Plaintiff feel
like she was wasting her time.”

The unnamed plaintiff in the

Feburary lawsuit was a graduate
student at UNL from 2014 to 2017.
She alleges that her unnamed
faculty adviser, referred to as John
Roe in the court filings, kissed her
on the lips in his office without her

consent. She was 26 years old and
married at the time of the alleged
incident; he was over 60.

After she attempted to limit

interactions with him after the
incident, she alleges he started a
“retaliation campaign” against
her to limit her interactions with
other instructors, increase her
financial dependence on him
and humiliate her in front of her
colleagues.

The alleged romantic advances

also escalated from there, the
lawsuit states.

In what the lawsuit describes as

the “worst” instance of retaliation,
the professor allegedly demoted
the student from first to second
author on a research paper without
giving her prior notice, a decision
which compromised her ability to
fulfill degree requirements.

During
the
investigation,

which took place during the
summer of 2016, the plaintiff’s

primary points of contact were
Strickman
and
fellow
UNL

IEC
employee
Susan
Foster,

according to a letter to the
student mentioned in the lawsuit
that was signed by Strickman.
Following the conclusion of the
investigation in August 2016, a
no-contact directive was put in
place between the student and
professor.

The
student
alleges
the

harassment from the professor
did not stop, leading her to file
a second report with IEC in
October 2016. According to the
lawsuit, no investigation was
opened into the second complaint.
This led the student to transfer to

another university and begin her
program again there.

“Plaintiff had been hopeful

that UNL would protect her from
Roe’s harassment and retaliation,
but her faith in the school had
been completely broken,” the
lawsuit reads.

In an email to The Daily March

1, Abdnour, one of the Title IX
lawyers on the case, wrote that
the new lawsuit has much in
common with the July 2020 one,
as
both
reveal
discrepancies

between UNL’s policies and their
practices.

JULIANNA MORANO

Daily Staff Reporter

ALEC COHEN/Daily

A lawsuit was filed against Tamiko Strickman, associate vice president of the University
of Michigan’s Office of Institutional Equity, Sunday evening.

Read more at
MichiganDaily.com

Read more at
MichiganDaily.com
See SCHLISSEL, Page 3

CALDER LEWIS,

JARED DOUGALL &

CHRISTIAN JULIANO

Daily News Editor &
Daily Staff Reporters

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