DETROIT — University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel found it “ironic” that students who supported President Donald Trump felt shunned on campus after the election and said he would have trouble urging someone to work for the new administration, according to emails released Wednesday.
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which advocates small government, sought the emails after Schlissel made comments following the election that offended pro-Trump students.
The group sued the university, accusing it of failing to turn over certain emails written by Schlissel that mentioned Trump in a timely manner. Both sides announced a settlement Wednesday. The university denied wrongdoing but said it will be adding staff for public records requests and making other changes.
The Mackinac Center said it became interested in Schlissel’s views after he appeared at a post-election campus rally and empathized with students who voted for Hillary Clinton.
“The University of Michigan is a public entity which receives more than $300 million in state funds,” said Patrick Wright, vice president of legal affairs at the group. “Taxpayers deserve to know that its leaders are treating students fairly regardless of political beliefs.”
Three days after the election, Schlissel exchanged email with Dan Little, chancellor at the Dearborn campus.
“Some complaints from our minority of Trump supporters who now feel marginalized and ostracized in our campus milieu and post election activity. Ironic,” Schlissel wrote.
On Nov. 10, Schlissel told his predecessor, Mary Sue Coleman, that he was “overwhelmed with uncertainty” by Trump’s victory and said it was “unlike anything I’ve ever lived through.”
“I am torn on recommendations for appointees since I can’t imagine lending one’s name to a Trump administration,” Schlissel wrote.
He said he would push back “against the idea that facts don’t matter, that science isn’t relevant to decision making and that people without white skin don’t belong here.”
University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said there would be no comment about the emails.
In August 2016, Schlissel was working on a speech to incoming freshmen and apparently shared a draft with a vice president and others.
“I realize that some may interpret this as anti-Trump although there is nothing explicit in the remarks,” he said. “That’s just the way it will have to be. I would feel awful if Trump won the election and I was too afraid of appearing political to make any effort to encourage our students to thoughtfully participate. I’m willing to accept the criticism since I think it’s very important.”
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