The University of Michigan has begun to implement recommendations from the July 31 report that detailed decades of sexual harassment by the university’s former provost.
President Mark Schlissel said at the Sept. 17 Board of Regents meeting that he and regents were committed to making “any changes necessary to prevent the behaviors in the report from happening ever again.”
The report from the WilmerHale law firm was the culmination of an independent investigation into allegations of misconduct by Martin Philbert. The investigation found that Philbert sexually harassed multiple members of the university community, including graduate students who worked in his lab and U-M employees.
The president said he and regents are working with the appropriate units on campus to address each WilmerHale recommendation, “whether they may require new policies and procedures or be implemented in the context of other improvements we have made over the past few years.”
He said the university would continue to look beyond the WilmerHale recommendations “for any measures we can take to make our environment safe for all and ensure that no one fears retaliation for reporting misconduct.”
The president outlined three areas for initial steps. They include:
- Hiring a consultant to help implement recommendations in a timely manner.
- Having any reports of misconduct involving senior staff members in the Office of the Provost handled outside of the Office for Institutional Equity, which reports to the provost.
- Developing a policy on consensual relationships within the university community.
Schlissel said the university would seek the assistance of an outside firm to provide “an important external perspective” and to help implement recommendations.
“Timely and effective implementation of the recommendations are priorities for the board and me, and we are seeking proposals from consultants to support these goals,” Schlissel said. “The consultant will engage with us on all of our work related to the WilmerHale report.” He said the goal is to announce the consultant soon.
The university will change its policy on reporting incidents of misconduct to OIE, Schlissel said, “to ensure that any reports of misconduct involving senior administrators in the Office of the Provost will be handled by the executive vice president and chief financial officer.”
The president said the change removes the possibility of a conflict or hesitancy in reporting because the provost oversees OIE. He said the change implements one of WilmerHale’s recommendations that the university provide alternative oversight of sexual misconduct allegations involving members of the Provost’s Office.
Additionally, Schlissel said the university was developing a new policy regarding consensual relationships, which was another WilmerHale recommendation. Schlissel said the process of developing the policy “will require engagement with our community, due to its many complexities.” He said the aim of the policy is to address the possibility of exploitation, conflict of interest and favoritism.
The president said, however, that the university’s commitment to improve the campus climate around sexual and gender-based misconduct goes well beyond the implementation of the WilmerHale recommendations.
“We need to grow a culture at U-M where sexual and gender-based misconduct are not tolerated, where all members of the community feel empowered and safe to report such issues, where there are many conduits for reporting and that all reports get acted on appropriately and quickly,” he said.