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New U of M president Mark Schlissel steps in at crucial time

Sep 5, 2014

The University of Michigan is celebrating its new president, Mark Schlissel.

Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

He's being officially installed in office today, with a long list of lectures and ceremonies to mark the occasion, including a cross-campus procession of faculty in full caps and gowns.

Schlissel has an impressive resume: Princeton, Johns Hopkins, an M.D. and a Ph.D., a residency in internal medicine, and most recently provost at Brown University.

And he is going to need all the smarts, diplomacy, and mediation skills he picked up along the way.

He's stepping in at a critical time for Michigan.

Tuition has skyrocketed in recent years and state aid has dropped.

On top of that, Michigan is one of several schools under federal investigation for the way it handled sexual assault complaints.

Plus, the Obama administration is handing down a growing list of requirements for how schools should handle sexual assault investigations.

Critics say the new protocols are well-intentioned, but ask schools to be detectives, judges and juries – something they just don't have the resources to do in a sensitive and effective way.

What's more, protests last year by the Black Student Union about the lack of diversity on campus gained national attention, prompting a continuing discussion about how schools like Michigan can reach and recruit talented, capable black high schoolers.

That's an issue Schlissel brought up in his speech:

"I firmly believe that we cannot achieve true excellence without leveraging the experiences and perspectives of the broadest possible diversity of students, faculty, and staff," he told the crowd at Hill Auditorium.