Michigan Provost Accused of Sexual Misconduct

The university's chief academic officer is placed on leave during investigation into "several" undisclosed allegations of misconduct.

January 23, 2020
 
University of Michigan
Martin A. Philbert

University of Michigan provost Martin A. Philbert was placed on administrative leave pending an outside investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct, the university announced Wednesday.

Michigan president Mark Schlissel said the university “received several allegations of sexual misconduct by Dr. Philbert” last Thursday and Friday and began an internal investigation Friday.

“Over the next three days, the university retained an outside law firm which immediately launched an investigation of the allegations, our Division of Public Safety and Security was engaged, and Dr. Philbert was directed not to report to work. I placed him on administrative leave Tuesday,” Schlissel wrote in a universitywide email.

The university did not disclose details about the allegations against Philbert.

Philbert did not respond to messages sent to his university email and to a cellphone number identified via a public records search.

Philbert was appointed provost in 2017. A professor of toxicology, he previously served as dean of Michigan’s School of Public Health. He first became a professor at Michigan at 1995.

Schlissel said an acting provost will be appointed in the coming days.

"The U-M Board of Regents and I are committed to a full and thorough investigation, and we will continue to work to ensure the integrity of the process, following the same policy and practices that apply to all employees at U-M," he said. "It remains early in the investigation, and no findings or conclusions have been reached."

Schlissel said that the Office of Institutional Equity, which typically handles investigations of this kind, reports to the provost’s office but had been directed to report to the associate vice president of human resources for all matters related to the investigation.

The Detroit News quoted comments made on Twitter by Michigan trustee Jordan Acker.

"I am angry and deeply empathetic to the survivors, and am committed to ensure that it never occurs on our campus again," Acker said. "Our community healing starts with first understanding the alleged activities and exactly what happened.

"For me, our investigation must be transparent, with sensitivity and understanding for the survivors and their needs, and work to make sure that something like this never happens on our campus again."

Michigan's handling of the investigation into its No. 2 administrator and chief academic officer will undoubtedly be closely watched.

The University of Oklahoma came under fire last year for its handling for sexual misconduct allegations against its former president David Boren. Other colleges that have recently dealt with sexual misconduct allegations against provosts or presidents include Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, whose president has been accused of sexual harassment, and Florida SouthWestern State College, whose former provost resigned after facing sexual harassment allegations.

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