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U-M President Ordered To Court In Student Sexual Misconduct Case

Mark Schlissel
University of Michigan
University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel

A judge has taken the extraordinary step of ordering the president of the University of Michigan to court to discuss a sexual misconduct case against a student.

The university asked U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow to reconsider the decision, but the request was rejected Wednesday.

During a conference call last week, Tarnow said school lawyers must bring Mark Schlissel to court. The judge was blunt, saying: "He will be here."

"This should be more important to him than almost anything going on at the university. ... I am not sure I would understand anything else being more important than resolving what is a hot button issue at every university in this country," Tarnow said.

It's possible the June 11 meeting won't be open to the public.

A graduate student accused of sexual misconduct, identified as John Doe, is suing the University of Michigan. The school froze Doe's undergraduate degree and academic transcript until Tarnow intervened in 2018, said his attorney, Deborah Gordon.

The issue now is what process U-M will use to handle the 2017 sexual misconduct allegation, she said. Doe denies any wrongdoing and said the sex was consensual after the pair watched movies in a dorm room. Alcohol and drugs weren't involved.

A federal appeals court, in a major decision last year, said the university must allow cross-examination in sexual misconduct hearings.

Gordon said it's important to have Schlissel directly involved in Doe's case.

"The university has utterly failed to identify anyone other than the president who is responsible" for how the university will offer due process to students accused of misconduct, she said.

In a court filing Monday, U-M attorney Joshua Richards said Tarnow had "abused his discretion" by ordering Schlissel to participate when another senior administrator could attend.

Richards, during the May 1 conference call, asked if Schlissel could join by phone instead of traveling to the Detroit courthouse.

"No. That is an easy question," the judge replied. "It's not like you are a plane trip away. I won't tell you how fast I used to be able to get to U of M."

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