UM Regents to hire outside experts to help handle sexual misconduct reports

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

The University of Michigan Board of Regents apologized to those affected by sexual misconduct from former Provost Martin Philbert, and said it is planning to hire outside experts to assist the university to "create a culture where reports will be heard and lead to appropriate action," according to a statement.

"The sexual misconduct behavior of the former university provost ... is abhorrent and unacceptable," the board said. "We, as a university, failed on many levels, as this individual advanced through the administrative ranks. We thank those who came forward for their courage and we apologize to all survivors."

The statement continued with an appreciation of UM President Mark Schlissel's commitment, along with his team, to address recommendations issued by the WilmerHale law firm, hired by the university to investigate allegations against Philbert.

The firm released a 94-page report this month that detailed a lengthy and pervasive history of sexual harassment and misconduct by Philbert before and during his time as UM's second-highest-ranking official, a job that ended in January when he was put on leave and subsequently removed from his administrative post. It also included recommendations to prevent failures by the university in identifying and investigating employee sexual misconduct.

"Together with the university administration, we must now create a culture where reports will be heard and lead to appropriate action, without fear of retaliation and where sexual misconduct is not tolerated," the board's statement said. "Our goals include employing the expertise of professionals and those who study sexual misconduct, fixing our safety and integrity compliance framework, and restoring the trust of our community."

The WilmerHale report alleges some UM officials knew about Philbert's action, but he still rose through administrative ranks as he allegedly hugged women, made sexual comments that included references to "chocolate syrup sex" and engaged in sexual relationships with several women on staff.

It also comes as UM has hired WilmerHale to conduct a report on the late Dr. Robert E. Anderson, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by scores of men during his nearly four decades of service to the university as head of University Health Service and team doctor for the UM Athletic Department. That report is expected later this year.

The board said it will hire experts to "put the university in the best position to live up to the high standards our community expects and deserves."

"This will be a collaborative effort of the board working closely with the president and the administration, engaging with our community and focusing on policy, culture and people," the statement said. "As our president said in his message (earlier this month), our highest priority is to make our community safe for all."

The board said it will further detail its plans during its next meeting, scheduled for Sept. 17.