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Posted on Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 5:57 a.m.

University of Michigan seeks to abolish age limits for university president and executive officers

By Kellie Woodhouse

The University of Michigan wants to get rid of a rule that requires university presidents to retire by the age of 70.

UM Mary Sue.jpg

Mary Sue Coleman file photo

A current university bylaw calls for the university president and executive officers to "terminate" their employment "no later than the end of the fiscal year in which their seventieth birthday occurs."

For current 68-year-old President Mary Sue Coleman, who has an Oct. 2. birthday, the rule would take effect in the 2013-2014 fiscal year. Coleman's current contract is set to expire in July 2014.

According to the school's General Counsel's office, however, the bylaw constitutes age discrimination and is in violation of Michigan's Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act.

Jacki Miller, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, said "in a private organization they can set a cap like that" but public employers "cannot force someone to retire based upon age."

University officials will ask the Board of Regents to remove the age limit from U-M bylaws at a meeting Thursday.

In a memo to regents, Sally Churchill, U-M vice president and secretary, sought several other revisions to the university bylaws.

They include changing the title and job description of the school's vice president for communications (now the vice president for global communications and strategic initiatives) to establish a global focus.

Churchill's memo also suggests amending tenure, promotion and resignation guidelines to give the provost a role in such personnel matters.

Read more suggested changes here.

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.



Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 6:50 a.m.

I think many comments here reflect political snarkiness and shallow thinking. Stephen Hawking: still teaching, just turned 70 (Jan. 8th) and still ranked as one of the top theoretical physicists in the world. Just over a year ago, it was President Coleman who arguably saved the Michigan football program by hiring Dave Brandon as Athletic Director. She's overseen huge changes and expansion at the University of Michigan. Bet ya: many of her critics would be left in ruin if they tried doing the job President Coleman is doing today. I advise "retirement age" for these critics has already come and gone, regardless of the number of their years.


Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 6:23 a.m.

One word: Paterno. One more word: Reagan. Also ref. -- Supreme Court Justices. Fact: the failure with this kind of rule is that it lacks scientific backing. There ARE studies and statistics which could be used to establish a better rule than the one which says: We're just guessing - every time a specific case of forced retirement comes up.


Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 3:18 a.m.

70 seems fair....Old age can gradually affect people/where do you draw the line? At 65 or 66, cognitive/multi tasking functions may become does not get easier to function and the demands are tremendous. Where do you draw the line? a line should be drawn....the job is too complex. It is not fair to sit and say"oh people can function perfectly decade after decade." That is not true...who are we kidding here?


Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 1:33 a.m.

I hope this change applies to all employees at UM, not just the elite execs. Age discrimination should not be legal anywhere or for anyone, at the UM or anywhere else. Performance is the measure for continuing in a job. Period.


Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 1:32 a.m.

The bylaw is irresponsible and should be gotten rid of. Mary Sue Coleman should also be gotten rid of, but because of her complete failure of leadership over the failure of reporting in the Jensen case, not her age.


Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 12:53 a.m.

She has passed rules to force or coerce retirement of tenured professors but she doesn't want to be subject to the same rules she makes. It may be illegal to fire her but she is not guaranteed her administrative position. Let her remain as a professor but not as President.


Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 1:33 a.m.

She needs to go, either way.


Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 12:22 a.m.

In all seriousness, what has she done for the university?


Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 6:34 a.m.

If you have to ask, in all seriousness: you need to catch up on your studies of administration and the history of U of M presidents. She's 13th president to serve U of M: of those, she's easily in the top 3 and far above the last two (Duderstadt and Bolinger).


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 11:57 p.m.

I saw the article title and instantly thought "Mary Sue must be getting up there for this to suddenly be an issue" Skimmed the article to see exactly that. 68! How much longer must she go on, most people actually look forward to retire. Maybe she overspent her 6 figure income?


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 11:13 p.m.

Everybody should serve their Fair Share of Term Limits (and Flat Taxes) !!!


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 9:06 p.m.

They say 70 is the new 50, and as I have passed one and head to the other, I hope so. That said, why not go ahead and go for it? With one big fat caveat - those currently in the positions now, or when this takes effect, are "grandfathered" (excuse the sexist pun). They retire at 70. Then you can start afresh. No implications of power grabs or throne extensions by the current administration.


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 11:55 p.m.

And 50 is the new 30? and 30 the new 10? Come on now.


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 8:21 p.m.

Why aren't they applying the new rule if passed to all employees? Don't they still require employees to leave at 70?


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 5:47 p.m.

"Jacki Miller, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, said "in a private organization they can set a cap like that" but public employers "cannot force someone to retire based upon age." Incorrect statement, Ms. Miller. There are plenty of public jobs/occupations that have age limits. Policemen, firefighters, air traffic controllers, just to name a few. We don't like to admit it, but one's mental and physical facilities generally do fade with time. Fact of life and aging. My opinion - Even if you happen to be that rare, sharp-as-a-tack 70 yr old, it is time to step aside and allow youth to step to the forefront.


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 5:25 p.m.

having rules that specify that a person is no longer qualified for their current job based on age is direct discrimination. i'm surprised it hasn't been brought to court already. if someone grows old and can no longer perform their duties, have the decency to remove them from their position for the right reasons. they'd be losing their job, not because their old, but because they can't perform. automatically saying that it is a specific age that you are cutting people off ignores the fact that some people are fully capable to do their job into their senior years.

Matt Peckham

Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 5:22 p.m.

I'd trade the age limit for presidential term limits.


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 4:54 p.m.

70, too senior to sit on this position. Please step down. You don't have to work for food, save some time for your self and enjoy being a grand Ma.


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 4:05 p.m.

Seventy certainly is arbitrary! To me it should be all about health and vitality. But who makes that decision? Picking 70 seems easier. I never liked the idea of Supreme Court judges serving for life regardless of their ability to actually serve. It's the same issue with our drivers license. When are we to old to drive a car and who makes that decision? Family? Doctor? The State? How about after seventy setting a term limit based on health.


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 4:14 p.m.

It is a sticky topic and the age limit should be applied across the board. That is why I like term limits for a college president or other officials. Many of the posters above like the new ideas view. The timing of this issue is very suspect, per Mary Sue Coleman.


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 3:43 p.m.

It is age discrimination , pure and simple.


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 3:39 p.m.

I think it's important to have some kind of age limits - whether it's 70 or some other age. Otherwise, an organization will turn into the U.S. Congress. We all know how that's going.


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 3:37 p.m.

"According to the school's General Counsel's office, however, the bylaw constitutes age discrimination and is in violation of Michigan's Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act." I agree that the bylaw needs to be changed. However, there comes a time when all of us need to step aside for a new generation. The aging brain and strong desire for independence sometimes drives people to hang on to a career longer than they are truly capable. Recommended retirement age guidelines were made for a reason (or at least for a soft kick in the old jeans).

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 3:17 p.m.

she should be President for life then groom one of her offspring to take over at her demise. It works splendidly for numerous third world dictators.

Dog Guy

Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 3:10 p.m.

So accustomed to being above to being above the law, she is being overly delicate in fussing over a bylaw.


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 2:53 p.m.

Find it funny this has come up with her approaching the age limit. I guess she does not want to give up her gold mine position. When is enough money enough. Retire Mary and enjoy what you have left of life. Be fair to the university and let some new fresh blood in with some new fresh ideas. Just a prime example of some one hanging on to long.


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 2:42 p.m.

It appears UM has an outdated policy still on the books since the Age Discrimination Act has been in effect since 1967. This Act makes it illegal to fire (among other things) an employee based on age. I can't believe that UM, in 2012, would still set age 70 as a mandatory retirement age for its employees.


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 2:38 p.m.

What's wrong with term limits? Once the Age Discrimination flag is raised then the Regents will vote to change the by-law. I do not like the idea of a Joe Paterno mentality. It would be better to have a changing of the guard and get new ideas in.


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 2:30 p.m.

It's a dumb rule and it should be discarded. That's not to say that I wish to see Coleman's term extended ... it's just a dumb rule regardless.


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 2:19 p.m.

Giving the power back to the people is difficult for every dictator!


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 2:01 p.m.

I certainly find the timing of this imbroglio to be highly suspect. ;^)

Basic Bob

Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 3:37 p.m.

They can extend her contract for a few more years then force her to resign for her part in the kiddie porn scandal. With pay, of course.


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 1:40 p.m.

Seems like a self serving move for Mary Sue Coleman. Why can't the UM President be elected like the Regents? I think it is time for Mary Sue Coleman to go back to Iowa and give someone else the chance to lead this University.


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 1:31 p.m.

"...According to the school's General Counsel's office, however, the bylaw constitutes age discrimination and is in violation ..." GENERAL COUNSEL!!!!! Isn't the advice of the GC what caused the current scandal at Mott's? For her 70th birthday they should give Coleman a gold thumb drive as a parting gift. Actually, the should give it to her tomorrow for a parting gift. And a few to the GCs!


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 6:13 p.m.

They all in the same chain of command....with Scarnecchia's name popping up again <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 4:32 p.m.

&quot;Isn't the advice of the GC what caused the current scandal at Mott's?&quot; No, it's not. Different bunch of laywers. Hospital lawyers v. U-M General Counsel's office.

Ron Granger

Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 1:31 p.m.

Suddenly it is illegal, says 68 year old Coleman? Hah. It isn't an appointment for life. There should be a &quot;term limit&quot;. It is time for Coleman to move on and pursue &quot;other interests&quot;. I lost all confidence in her after the alleged child-porn cover-up and lack of follow-thru. There is never &quot;just one roach&quot;.


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 1:53 p.m.

You forgot to mention the buy out clause for Rich Rod. She withheld the buy out agreement from the Regents. Seems disclosure is not her strong suit.


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 1:27 p.m.

Buh bye Coleman.

Basic Bob

Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 1:03 p.m.

Other state employment laws don't apply to the university, this one shouldn't either. Many retired university presidents retain their status as professors and continue to take an active role in university life. Dr. Coleman should consider stepping back, no matter what the General Counsel believes is legal.


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 12:41 p.m.

Been reading some of the posts below. Mandatory retirement based on age is &quot;age discrimination&quot;, period ! My father is almost 79 years old. He just bought another new Chrysler product to make his daily trip down to the DMC and Wayne State University ( from the Ann Arbor area) where he has practiced and taught medicine for the past 40 years. His medical students love him as do his patients. He has consitently been voted one of the best hemo doc's in the state of Michigan year after year. He loves what he does and forcing him to retire just based on age would be wrong. Go Green Go White


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 5:03 p.m.

Old man is over 80, recently married a woman at 18.


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 12:26 p.m.

The age limit is a good way to bring vital people with new ideas to the institution. This is simply a money and power grab. MSC has a great job that pays $500 K per year plus perks and she does not want to give it up.

Stupid Hick

Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 1:18 p.m.

But the presidency has a minimum age limit of 35. Is that age discrimination?

Jim Osborn

Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 1:10 p.m.

This posting is a perfect example of academic, or liberal, dishonesty. If UM desires to "bring vital people with new ideas to the institution" then term limits is the honest and legal method to achieve this, not a discriminatory age limit. The US presidency has term limits, but no age limit. Why not UM?


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 12:08 p.m.

This is no country for old men.....


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 1:06 p.m.

Smokeblwr for the W!

Silly Sally

Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 11:54 a.m.

It depends upon the person. Mary Sue Coleman is out of touch as she nears 70, not realizing the implications about hiding the child porn doctor at the Mott Hospital As she very likely chanted in her youth about someone (a president?) near her present age Hey HEY! Ho HO! Mary Sue Coleman has got to GO!

Jim Osborn

Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 11:47 a.m.

I agree with this proposal. It should depend upon the person's performance, experience, and ability, and not age. A large part of the job is delegating and selecting those under you. Age 70 is arbitrary; some of our best US presidents have been over age 70. With that said, we do not want to have a beloved UM president staying around at age 95, with the regents afraid to say "go" I do hope that the regents do not use this topic to ignore another issue involving the UM President.

Michigan Man

Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 2:28 p.m.

Not a huge MSC fan at all but Mr. Osborn is correct. Ronald Reagan was 70 when he was elected POTUS. For the most part, RR got the job done in pretty good fashion.

Jim Osborn

Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 1:11 p.m.

If UM desires to "bring vital people with new ideas to the institution" then term limits is the honest and legal method to achieve this, not a discriminatory age limit. The US presidency has term limits, but no age limit. Why not UM?


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 11:45 a.m.

All of a sudden it is illegal as Mary Sue approaches 70?