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Knish and tell: Ousted U of Michigan president lured subordinate with pastries

Mark Schlissel fired by school over alleged unsavory affair with employee

In this photo from January 30, 2017, University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel speaks during a ceremony at the university, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)
In this photo from January 30, 2017, University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel speaks during a ceremony at the university, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

JTA — The University of Michigan Board of Regents fired the school’s president, Mark Schlissel, over an alleged relationship he conducted with a subordinate employee at the university. The news was announced Saturday in a letter posted to the university’s website along with a trove of emails and texts between Schlissel and the employee from recent years.

Among those exchanges was a flirtatious email from Schlissel, who is Jewish, to the employee involving a box of knishes he received as a gift. The savory, doughy pastries, which are typically filled with potatoes, are a classic Ashkenazi Jewish food.

“[I] can lure you to visit with the promise of a knish?” he wrote to the employee on October 10, 2019.

Schlissel assumed the role of president in 2014 and had his contract renewed in 2018 for another five years. In fall 2021, Schlissel announced he would step down one year early, according to the Detroit Free Press. According to the letter from the board posted to the school’s website Saturday, the board began an investigation into Schlissel’s conduct after receiving an anonymous complaint on December 8, 2021.

“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 wrote.

Before coming to the University of Michigan, Schlissel served as the provost at Brown University. According to the Detroit Jewish News, Schlissel, who had a bar mitzvah but is not religious, became the school’s second Jewish president when he assumed the post in 2014.

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