Poplin: We all actually do want to help

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For this month’s feature story, we asked a variety of folks to set some priorities for new University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel. They had a lot of fun with it. So much fun, in fact, that we couldn’t resist joining.

Our advice to President Schlissel: Don’t take yourself too seriously.
The University of Michigan was a wonderful institution before you arrived, and it will be a wonderful institution when you leave. It’s overflowing with gifted people who know their craft. Trust them and get out of their way. And listen to the “townies”; Ann Arbor’s got the most educated, passionate “townies” on the planet. Assume they want to help you, because almost all of them really do.
That unsolicited advice flies in the face of the spirit of distrust which seems to have taken hold at U-M these days. You were hired, in fact, through a secret selection process. That’s inexcusable at an institution which stands on bedrock concepts like the free exchange of ideas — and which accepts hundreds of millions of dollars annually in state appropriations provided by the very people being excluded.
You won’t be able to change that culture overnight. It starts at the top. In fact, your bosses, the regents, are being sued by two newspapers for their lack of public access. That same tone-deafness is exhibited elsewhere; it allowed an iconic local burger joint to be unapologetically razed by U-M to make way for a graduate-student dorm. The U-M-AA relationship is vital to both parties and has been neglected for too long.
Having said all that, you’re going to love this place. You’ll never live anywhere with a more welcoming, collaborative spirit. Show only the slightest reciprocity, and you’ll be amazed at all the things you can get accomplished.

Got any advice for U-M’s new president? Share it with your fellow readers of The Ann; email theannmag@gmail.com or visit facebook.com/theannmag.

Kyle Poplin

Kyle Poplin is co-founder and editor of The Ann magazine.