The Faculty of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Michigan wrote a letter asking Professor Jason Mars to take a leave after The Verge examined his behavior as CEO of Clinc, an AI startup with connections to the school.
"On behalf of the entire CSE community, we vehemently condemn the alleged conduct, which not only violates the high standards that we adhere to in Michigan, but also fundamental principles of human decency," they wrote. "The Faculty of Computer Science and Engineering urges Professor Mars to take a vacation immediately until a complete account of his behavior is known."
The Michigan School of Information also announced that it would terminate its recruitment relationship with Clinc due to the alleged behavior of Mars. In a separate email on Friday morning, a school administrator wrote: "… we believe Clinc does not meet UMSI's expectations as a professional work environment." The administrator also said the department would "periodically review Clinc's conditions" to determine if it made sense to restart the recruitment relationship.
The allegations outlined in The Verge's investigation focused on Mars' role as CEO of Clinc, an AI company in Ann Arbor, Michigan. According to 13 current and former employees, Mars has allegedly committed sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior towards Clinc employees and customers. Two of these allegations resulted in employees making legal claims against the company. Clinc investigated these allegations and, while concluding that "certain events that were claimed did not occur as claimed," Mars resigned as CEO.
In his letter of resignation, Mars admitted to drinking too much, celebrating with employees and not setting any reasonable limits. "I learned a hard lesson in how I see my employees as friends," he said.
Verge's article highlighted a case in which Mars' lack of boundaries caused a doctoral student to complain to the school. During the internship at Clinc in 2017, Mars reportedly made inappropriate sexual comments to the student's friend, who recently studied at the University of Michigan and was an employee of the company. According to the doctoral student's notes, Mars said she had a "nice ass" and asked if she had "shaved". He also said, "You can sit on my face."
The student brought these allegations to the head of the IT department, but ultimately chose not to file an official complaint for fear that Mars would learn that he was involved. He later dropped out of his doctoral program and the following year Mars received a tenure.
When The Verge first asked the University of Michigan if they would take disciplinary action against Mars on these charges, the school said, “Jason Mars is an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the College of Engineering. His employment status has not changed. "
On Friday, the Dean of the College of Engineering, Dr. Alec D. Gallimore, a letter to the department: "We have carefully examined these matters and will continue to investigate them carefully … Although I have no details to share today I would like to assure you that we will address these issues and any where appropriate Will take action. We work on solutions to not only address immediate problems, but also to support a culture of respect across the board. "
Today's full statement from the Faculty of Computer Science is listed below:
The faculty of the Computer Science and Engineering Department is shocked and outraged by the alleged behavior of our colleague Jason Mars in his role as CEO of Clinc, which The Verge reported yesterday. On behalf of the entire CSE community, we vehemently condemn the alleged behavior, which not only violates the high standards that we adhere to in Michigan, but also fundamental principles of human decency.
The Faculty of Computer Science and Engineering urges Professor Mars to take leave immediately until a full account of his behavior is known.
If students or anyone else has information relevant to the Faculty's understanding of Professor Mars' behavior in Michigan or similar misconduct by others, we ask that you contact us. Reporting options, including anonymously, can be found at https://cse.engin.umich.edu/about/reporting-concerns-and-misconduct/
Update February 14, 7:00 p.m. ET: This article has been updated to include a statement by the Dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan.