Retired Michigan Violin Professor Stephen Shipps Pleads Guilty to Sex Charges

November 17, 2021, 10:12 PM · Former University of Michigan violin professor Steven Shipps pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to one count of transporting a minor girl across state lines with the intent to engage in sexual conduct.

Stephen Shipps
Violinist Stephen Shipps.

Shipps taught at the University of Michigan's School of Music, Theatre & Dance from 1989 until he retired in February 2019, following a December 2018 article in The Michigan Daily that described allegations of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct against Shipps that spanned a 40-year time period.

At the time of his retirement, Shipps was Chair of the Department of Strings. He was also director of the String Preparatory Academy, a pre-college music program for middle school and high school students. Before coming to Michigan he taught at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, from 1980 to 1989.

The charges stem from incidents that are alleged to have occurred in 2002. Click here to read the indictment.

Shipps, 68, was set to stand trial on Nov. 23 for two counts of of transporting a minor girl across state lines to engage in sexual activity. He was facing up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. According to The Detroit News, Shipps entered the guilty plea as part of a deal with prosecutors that "dismissed a similar charge involving the same girl." Under that agreement, the sentence will not exceed 71 months (just under six years) in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 17, 2022.

"Shipps used his position of trust to sexually exploit a child," said Acting U.S. Attorney Mohsin in a statement issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Michigan. "Well-regarded music professors at prestigious universities with competitive music programs like the University of Michigan enjoy tremendous influence within the music community. These professors often have the ability to make or break careers. Stephen Shipps was an influential and highly sought after violin professor who had successfully launched many careers. I commend the brave young woman who stepped forward and exposed Shipps’s abuse. This case proves that the passage of time, no matter how long, will not deter us from bringing to justice those who prey on our most vulnerable."

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November 18, 2021 at 07:08 PM · Preying upon students has often been thought of as one of many benefits or perks of being a teacher.

I have never liked that, and am glad that this is no longer considered to be acceptable.

November 19, 2021 at 12:22 AM · Sexual abuse as a "perk" - definitely an unprincipled idea. I'm glad not all violin teachers saw things that way.

November 19, 2021 at 01:24 AM · Thought of as a perk by whom? And was it ever considered acceptable by anyone? Even the perpetrators felt a powerful need to conceal their activities. One might therefore assume that even they knew damned well that it wasn’t acceptable. Or perhaps they were concealing it because an unjust society wouldn’t acknowledge their right to do this. I doubt it.

November 22, 2021 at 11:23 AM · An OK surname, one might think - but not if it includes nefariously shipping minors across state lines!

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