OT: Schlissel calls out Freep for inaccuracies

Submitted by BlueFish on February 12th, 2018 at 11:55 AM

Via today's University Record (LINK):

President Mark Schlissel wrote a letter to the editor responding to a series of [Ed-BF: Freep] stories about U-M's endowment, and to a related editorial. He said the articles "invent conclusions and peddle innuendo not supported by facts," and that the editorial's premise was "irresponsible, incomprehensible and false."

Disclaimer: I haven't read Pres. Schlissel's letter, as it would require me to give the Freep a page visit (which I've not done since 9/1/09). I acknowledge that could be viewed as irresponsible, if I'm posting this.  But I have no reason to believe Pres. Schlissel is amiss here. Given the choice of comparing the ethics of Pres. Schlissel vs. the Freep, there is no choice.

I post this only to demonstrate the Freep's continued (EDIT: and apparent) disregard for facts and journalistic ethics, where it comes to the University.  Why anyone would trust the Freep as a source of reliable news, I don't know.  Their track record is abyssmal.

I'm not including a Freep link.  It can be accessed via the Record, if necessary.

EDIT: A commenter below provided a link to the U-M Public Affairs response (LINK).



February 12th, 2018 at 11:59 AM ^

Cool, let's blindly trust Schlissel in this matter. I'm sure he has no vested interest.

I'm not saying the Free Press isn't full of shit, but if you need an example of why it's a bad idea to just believe whatever your school's president says, maybe look a few miles west...


February 12th, 2018 at 12:28 PM ^

Maybe my reading comprehension isn't up to snuff (possible, I'm an engineer), but I thougt the main thrust of the Freep thing was that there's a lack of transparency. They didn't explicitly say there was shady shit going on (though they may have left that as the logical conclusion), but they made the valid point that there could be shady shit going on and better transparency would prevent that. Schlissel is basically just saying "everything is on the up and up," which I do believe. But that doesn't mean more transparency to keep it that way is a bad idea.

Also, I mostly just object to the original post's blanket dismissal of the Freep's position because of a decade old grudge.

swan flu

February 12th, 2018 at 1:02 PM ^

As an engineer, aren't you concerned about people making bold claims without sufficient evidence? Would you be okay if I suggested that your work may be endangering the lives of children? Maybe you have done a shitty job as an engineer to ensure your work is reliable and safe.

In fact, I demand you post your data right now to prove your engineering hasn't killed anyone already.


February 12th, 2018 at 2:15 PM ^

Besides their claim of illicit things (and make no mistake, they did insinuate this) they framed the story alongside the MSU story.

To me the gist of the Freep story is that UM gave 2% of their funds to a couple very successful fund managers.  Should they have excluded these two guys because they are on the committee?  Maybe, but don't claim for a second that the two are not qualified.  

The Freep can go to Hell.


February 12th, 2018 at 1:06 PM ^

I agree to an extent, but the letter points out a couple of places where the Free Press was factually wrong and where you could find out the correct information with some diligence.  Yes, Michigan should be more transparent on certain things, but it also feels like (shocker) the Freep did a mediocre job researching this and figured a splashy headline and a mixture of truth and fiction would be enough.

I personally think the nation's treatment of financial disclosure is atrocious and the fact that many people in the financial industry will admit that there are parts of the beast that work without good means of control and restraint (see the occassional flash crash in high-frequency trading that have limited means of being corrected for beyond shutting down exchanges completely).  But that's a systemic issue, not one that Michigan should have to correct for just to make a bunch of people feel better.


February 12th, 2018 at 12:08 PM ^

and agree that blindly buying in to statements from leadership with a vested interest isn't the best idea, generally speaking. Regarding Schlissel, however, I have to say he has impressed me time and again as someone with a track record of thoughtful responses to a variety of challenging topics and situations. He has pleasantly surprised me so far.

Maybe someone with a clue on the endowment investment practices will weigh in. 

As for the Freep, they have a trackrecord too. 


February 12th, 2018 at 12:11 PM ^

While on average I'd trust President Schlissel over the Freep I think the point raised about vested interest is correct.  Universities, like many other organizations, are structured to protect themselves at times indepedent of ideals and integrity.  I think the PSU and MSU examples have that in common; and I am personally aware of 2 other instances (one involving another B1G school and one a smaller private college) where the school clearly chose protecting their moneyed interests over "doing the right thing" and being honest.  Absent clear facts it could just be two drunk guys arguing over colliding streams of urine.  


February 12th, 2018 at 12:24 PM ^

In Schlissel's defense, he provides the numbers. There is 2% invested with UM donors but I'd like to assume that investment makes sense from a return standpoint.  

The biggest issue I had with the original article was another point Schlissel made about Freep conflating the MSU scandal with UM's lack of transparency with their investments, a very stupid comparison.

"Conflating the University of Michigan’s management of its successful, transparent and essential endowment with the horrific criminal activity of a sexual predator is irresponsible, incomprehensible and false."


February 12th, 2018 at 4:01 PM ^

if I do say so myself ...

Seriously, this is how a Univ President should respond to PR issues - open, articulate, measured response. Compare his professionalism with the shitshow in EL and it’s a night-and-day difference in leadership. Proud to have a leader like this at my alma mater.


February 12th, 2018 at 1:00 PM ^

I read his letter.  It at least cites specific examples to refute the Free Press's story, which was a mixture of legitimate criticisms and off-handed remarks/insinuations that didn't seem to have much substance behind them.  They make claims like "the Board of Regents don't turn down investment suggestions by the school's investment arm", which I assume is a pretty standard practice across the board.  It's why you hire a CFO and an investment team.  And in all fairness, unless a Regent is going to spend years reading up on a variety of financial mechanisms and their relevance, it's hard to expect them to be able to make a truly informed decision about the efficacy of said investment beyond what their team suggests.  Similarly, I doubt the regents put up huge fights if the engineer school wants to invest a couple million in new bio-labs beyond the actual cost of building them.

The paper also makes the dubious claim that because Michigan invested money in a Pittsburght-area fund, they aren't investing in the area.  First off, that's conflating proximity with outreach - Michigan invests untold millions into NYC, but most of that money doesn't get spent in the city.  Funds exist to invest wherever opportunities arise, and it's only good business to look wherever you'd get the best returns.  This is not unlike people claiming Michigan football needs to sign the 8th-best player in the state so that they can "lock down the state" as opposed to signing a better prospect elsewhere.

And finally, the paper goes out of its way to insinuate that Michigan unduly invests in donor-run or donor-connected funds and companies, with numbers ike 75% reinvestment in UM-run companies compared to 50% of non-UM alumni companies (even though they invested in only 30 of the prior and 250 of the latter), but don't provide details (unless I missed it, which is possible) of the return on said investments.  If the UM ones are returning better than those that aren't connected, that's just good business.

I agree that Michigan needs to be more up-front and transparent about it's financial dealings, but that's an issue across academia, not just Michigan.  I'm sure you'd see a similar, if less impressive due to their smaller financial footprint, at MSU, WMU, CMU, etc.  The goal, especially with the state being unable to provide more financial resources to their flagship schools, is to have consistent alternative streams of income, and investment returns are one of them.  This isn't Lou Ann Simon not dealing with a sexual predator for 20 years; this is Michigan investing in people and companies they know and trust and being reasonably transparent about it within the legal standards required.  And as noted in the President's letter, you can hunt down a lot of this information via financial disclosure documents, it's just not readily available in an easily-consumable chunk.  If that's what you expect of financial institutions, you might be disappointed with the world economy.


February 12th, 2018 at 1:01 PM ^

you can read the Universities response yourself and come to a conclusion.  The newspaper is actually there to make money, so selling sensationalized stories makes them money.  The Free press has proven that they are will to do this when they wrote the hit piece on the Michigan football program almost 10 years ago that proved out to be largely false and mostly sensationalized nothing.  Acussations that turned from Coaches overworking their players by 10-20 hours a week, to coaches being improperly present during stretching, changing the countable hours (which was later clarified so this wouldn't be an issue now). 

This is so much different than MSU.  MSU has actively been hiding information and fighting for rights to hide information from the press (ESPN).  Michigan gave interviews and opened up records to the Freep to show them what they were doing, and the Freep wrote an article with untrue statements to tie them loosely to the Nassar coverup at State.  

I don't see how you can't see the differences and are blindly willing to follow a newspaper that has never done a retraction on a story that was fully reviewed and found to be false in the past. 


February 12th, 2018 at 1:56 PM ^

"Cool, let's blindly trust Schlissel in this matter. I'm sure he has no vested interest."

Or you could, instead, note what Schlissel noted:  UM in fact disclosed investment information.  "U-M provided Free Press reporters with 15 years of annual investment reports, copies of gift agreements and links to hundreds of other documents posted publicly on our website. Our chief investment officer, two vice presidents, and I gave extensive interviews. U-M additionally responded to several follow-up rounds of questions asked by reporters."  https://president.umich.edu/news-communications/letters-to-the-community/president-schlissels-detroit-free-press-letter-to-the-editor/


February 12th, 2018 at 12:08 PM ^

That article definitely had me looking at Michigan sideways. True or untrue this is how rich people stay rich. Avoid taxes and spend other peoples money!


February 12th, 2018 at 12:22 PM ^

Rich people aren't always rich at the expense of the poor.  Wealth doesn't work like that in a free society.  There are corrupt people, but 99% of the time it's not because they screwed over everyone else. Wealth pretty much follows the Pareto distribution 


February 12th, 2018 at 12:54 PM ^

What's your definition for "at expense of the poor"? A stabbing poor people business?  Real estate, large retail enterprises, services, etc. basically all of these either exploit the impoverished as underpaid employees or as victimized consumers. I'd say it's more like 99% of those with wealth over 2 million inherited it, and even when it's not they probably started at least upper middle class with access to good public or private schooling and paid for college education.

It is the nature of capitalism that wealth accrues in fewer and fewer hands.


February 12th, 2018 at 2:27 PM ^

If someone starts a business and makes millions or inherites millions from their family more people don't suddenly become poor or poorer.  The wealthy acquire more wealth because they know how to do it.  They have access to more wealth creating opportunities and can invest and re-invest, etc. etc.  That carries over to their family and snowballs.

The poor usually in survival mode will use any wealth they acquire immediately to try to survive or buy what they need.  They less likely to save and more liklely to use drugs particualrly if they've been suffering for a long time.  They are less likely to delay gratification and then sacrifice the long-term health and success for any short term survival or happiness they can get their hands on.

Ideally in a free society the wealthy will provide opportunities to the poor and contiue innvovating and competing in the free market. Often times communities will support eachother as well.  While there always be poor folks relative to the rich the standard of living can go up so that a poor person in 50 years is as well off as a rich person now, etc.  

The alternative is the governemt distributing wealth at gunpoint until equal outcome is achieved for all.  Everyone pretends to work as long as the gov't pretends to pay them.  No innovation occurs and society falls apart just like every other time it's been tried in human history except for small tiny homogenous countries or villages where everyone knew eachother. 





February 12th, 2018 at 3:44 PM ^

I really don't want to debate the merits of capitalism with a "libertarian" true believer on a sports blog, but I'm curious why you believe in a system in which billions suffer in misery while a precious few live like kings an emperors of old? Because poor people can have refrigerators now? Great innovations like 30 different flavors of Oreo or a billionaire shooting a car into space? I mean, is threat of starvation and death just as reprehensible a means of coercion as guns?


February 12th, 2018 at 5:37 PM ^

the logic of the Randians.

One would be that the rich and well-connected write the rules to feather their own beds irrespective of performance.

Case in point is a company I used to work for that, at last count, had made $50B worth of obviously terrible decisions.

The two CEO's who made said decisions were both paid about $50M to go away. There was no clawback mechnanism in place. of course, once it was clearly obvious to all that they had destroyed tens of billions of dollars worth of value. Both of them had stacked the board.

Statistics say that the stock market has barely budged since 1928 when the Republicans have full control of government. Conversely, stocks are up an average of 5% annually when Dems are fully in charge.

One can believe in capitalism and greed and still think some level of wealth redistribution is the proper thing to do for all.


February 12th, 2018 at 4:46 PM ^

I strongly disagree with this statement:

"I'd say it's more like 99% of those with wealth over 2 million inherited it"

I am virtually certain that a majority of the people I work with (I'm an engineer at a large tech company in Silicon Valley) who are 40 or older have a net worth in excess of $2M, and I doubt that almost anyone inherited it. While these people may not be very similar to someone worth $2M who lives in the midwest they are not an aberration (I would bet those worth $2M who work in finance in NYC are generally from a similar background).

On the flip side, it is absolutely fair to say that a significant number of these same people came from upper middle class households, but I guarantee that even that number is nowhere close to 99%.


February 12th, 2018 at 12:09 PM ^

"I post this only to demonstrate the Freep's continued disregard for facts and journalistic ethics, where it comes to the University."

So you didn't read it, have almost no context or detail, and then castigatge their "journalistic ethics"?

RR's cheating and getting caught and getting us sanctioned for the first time ever happened almost a decade ago. It might be time to stop blaming the entity that reported what he and his staff were doing, especially so hypocritically.


February 12th, 2018 at 12:17 PM ^

There are plenty of other examples of the Freep's poor journalistic ethics, over the last 10 years.

RR's "cheating" was largely overplayed by the Freep, and defended by its editors.  If you can't trust editors to do their job in the sports section, you have reason to question the rest of the news, as well.

I simply trust Pres. Schlissel more than I trust the Freep.  Regardless of my views, this is relevant news, of interest to this community.


February 12th, 2018 at 12:17 PM ^

the investigation showed that they had some additional stretching that wasn’t counted as practice time like it should have been. that’s a large leap from ‘cheating and disregarding the rules’ and an even larger leap from ‘RR disregards player safety to win at all costs’ or whatever the article was titled.

but hey, who are we to stop you from accusing people of being hypocrites and generally coming off as a clueless asshole?


February 12th, 2018 at 12:21 PM ^

What cheating? What sanctions? The only thing that actually happened was a lack of tracking the time properly (which is why vthat issue is referred to as "Stretchgate" here). The department successfully disapproved any ncaa allegations that even came close to being dirty - if anything, RR and staff was just sloppy.


February 12th, 2018 at 1:05 PM ^

You folks need to go back and review the facts, including RR's consistent disdain for and ignoring of the compliance department.

He was and is a cheater. His attitude about the rules not applying to him got us in trouble and finally got him fired in Arizona.


February 12th, 2018 at 12:18 PM ^

The original article wasn't the problem.  It was fair and pretty well researched.  But seemed like a whole lot of nothing.  Some money invested overlaps with big donors.  

The unsigned editorial from their board putting MSU sex scandals and was the huge problem and a joke.  

In the newspaper, they postscripted his editorial with paraphraseWe did not conflate the MSU issue with the Michigan issue. 


Our Feb. 4 editorial suggested that the lack of transparency surrounding the University of Michigan's endowment investment practices and Michigan State University's response to sexual assault allegations against Dr. Larry Nassar raise unanswered questions about each institution's conduct. The editorial neither conflated the two matters nor suggested any equivalency between them.

Really!! You conflated them by putting them in the same editorial.  It was Jedi Mind Trick stuff.


February 12th, 2018 at 12:39 PM ^

The content of the article suggesting both UM and MSU should be more transparent was not unreasonable, but I agree completely that the Freep tried to have it both ways by equating the two in titling the link to the article, "MSU, UM clean up your act"  


February 12th, 2018 at 12:40 PM ^

It's not raising questions about how the Univ of Michigan handles its investments that bothers Pres. Schlissel or most thinking folks.  It's the relentless insinuation that everything Michigan is suspect and fraudulent, while everything Michigan State is wholesome and legit that grinds our geers.  Like hell their editorial didn't conflate those two things!  They put them together in the same piece and concluded the same response--more transparency--was warranted.  Oh sure, all will be well at Michigan State if they just dial down the obstruction of justice and be a little more transparent. /S/

The most unfortunate aspect Dantonio's effect on MSU is the weaponizing of the little brother mindset.  The alumni and Spartarn slappy network have lapped it up, and used it to justify all manner of bad behavior.  "Hey, at least we aren't those arrogant ass-holes from Ann Arbor..."


February 12th, 2018 at 12:16 PM ^

Just because this blog clutches its metaphorical pearls and faints whenever a FREEP link is posted bc 10 years ago a shitty person who was a shitty coach did some mildly shittyish things that were reported by the freep doesn't mean it isn't worth reading to gather facts and form your own opinion based on your own research.