A University of Michigan faculty Senate vote of “no confidence” in President Mark Schlissel’s administration narrowly failed Wednesday, the latest development on the increasingly unsettled campus.
The failed motion reads as follows:
“WHEREAS, public health experts have widely condemned the University’s re-opening plan; Whereas, the Ethics and Privacy Committee appointed by the UM President has declared thatit does not meet “the reasonable standard for safety recommended by our report”;WHEREAS, staff, graduate students, undergraduate students, and faculty have expressed thatthey do not feel safe;WHEREAS, vulnerable populations in Ann Arbor and beyond will bear the biggest burdenshould infection spread widely,WHEREAS, the faculty of the University of Michigan has lost trust in the administration’shandling of the COVID-19 crisis,BE IT RESOLVED that the Faculty Senate of the University of Michigan has no confidence inthe administration’s re-opening plan.”
Members of the Graduate Employees' Organization (GEO), which is in its second week of striking, expressed frustration and disappointment in the outcome of the vote.
Still, the vote was hardly a validation of the administration and its handling of the school’s re-opening: 957 faculty members voted against the motion, with 953 voting in support and 184 abstaining, according to early social media reports. Representatives of the faculty Senate didn’t immediately respond to requests for final numbers.
President Mark Schlissel addressed faculty ahead of the vote, saying school leaders hear the community’s concerns, and are ramping up testing across campus.
In a letter to faculty sent Tuesday, Schlissel reiterated assurances that, while decisions around re-opening the University’s dorms and some in-person classes had been difficult, those calls had been made with expert guidance.
“I further want to apologize for and address what I have come to understand is my insufficient level of engagement with faculty throughout this pandemic, during a time when uncertainty and disruption to our personal and professional lives called for greater and more inclusive outreach and cooperation. This has contributed to an erosion of trust for which I am ultimately responsible. I would like to begin to rectify that,” the letter read.
On this point, I commit to finding more and better ways to seek ongoing faculty input and engagement during this pandemic and beyond.”
Just hours earlier, members and supporters of the GEO held a press conference on an otherwise largely quiet central campus about their ongoing strike.
Student dining worker Nik Von Seggern said they wouldn’t be coming back to work until staffers could be routinely tested for COVID-19.
“Because the dance building, which is right next to where I work, has 10% of its department quarantined right now. I wondered, how many of these students who would go to class there would come over to our dining hall to eat?” said Von Seggern.
Zoey Angers, an undergraduate and resident advisor, told the socially-distanced gathering that someone in her East Quad dorm tested positive for COVID-19, but isn't coming forward, so the RA team only learned about it secondhand.
“If housing had any commitment to thorough testing, then each student in that hallway would be tested immediately. But when we reported this to central housing, they said there was nothing they could do,” said Angers.
Michigan Radio asked housing administrators and the university’s public affairs office for comment on these allegations, but the school did not immediately respond.
Hours after two groups of GEO picketers marched with signs reading “ON STRIKE: U-MICH WORKS BECAUSE WE DO” or “HEALTH OVER WEALTH,” GEO leadership announced an emergency meeting Wednesday evening.
“We have been on strike and are gaining momentum! Come to this emergency meeting; we are expecting an offer shortly. We will decide on the offer and discuss the injunction,” a reference to the University’s request for a temporary restraining order to stop the strike.
Editor's note: U of M holds Michigan Radio's license.