Professor involved in email scandal’s standing unknown, continues to contact students


By Jessica Bursztynsky, News editor

The professional standings of an atmospheric studies professor who refused to provide electronic notes to a student with a proven disability is currently unknown.

Michael Schlesinger emailed students in his Climate and Global Change (ATMS 140) lecture that he was leaving the University and moving to Kona, Hawaii, after a spat with the Division of Rehabilitation and Education Services about providing a student notes.

He did not teach the following lectures and a new teacher has been appointed.

Schlesinger did not want to provide one student an “advantage” over the other students in the course, but did offer to pay for a note-taker. Rachel Graddy, DRES disability specialist, declined to comment “due to the confidential nature” of the matter.

However, in an interview Thursday with Inside Higher Ed, Schlesinger said he was on paid administrative leave, pending a hearing, and did not resign.

Schlesinger did not return requests for comment at the time of publication.

University officials declined to comment on the matter, due to its private nature.

Illinois has always been an international leader in disability resources and support, and we take very seriously our responsibility to providing reasonable accommodations to students who are living with disabilities, as well as to protecting their privacy rights,” said University spokeswoman Robin Kaler in an email.  

Schlesinger also has continued to contact students in the course, although he wrote he was not supposed to.

“Although the University has forbidden me to communicate with you, on pain of ???, I am,” he said in an email titled “Death of Cassini” on Sept. 14. “Why? To inform you of the imminent death of Cassini tomorrow.”

Cassini, a spacecraft that’s been in orbit for 13 years, was “one of humanity’s greatest achievements,” he added. NASA deliberately ended the mission on Friday.  

“Once more I venture where the University has forbidden me to go,” he said in a second email, entitled “Death of Cassini Part 2.” 

Schlesinger sent the class one final email after Cassini ended its orbit, saying, “I am overfull with sadness, and grief.”

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