Recently, The New York Times reported that The University of Michigan has suspended Martin Philbert, a tenured professor of toxicology, who is also executive vice president for academic affairs, or provost. The university has hired an outside law firm to investigate several allegations against Prof. Philbert, and that inquiry is said to be in the early stages.
The university declined to say exactly how many allegations were made or who had made them. Prof. Philbert, who has been with the university since 1995, is now on administrative leave.
The University of Michigan boasts of being the Number 1 ranked public university in the country with an unparalleled research program. Nevertheless, UM has made news for faculty misconduct in the recent past. According to the Times’ account, “In August 2018, the University of Michigan faced another sexual-misconduct issue involving a professor. David Daniels, a music professor at the School of Music, Theatre and Dance, was placed on leave amid accusations of sexual misconduct and assault.”
The allegations against Mr. Daniels included “engaging in sexually suggestive communications with students” and “offering money in exchange for watching a student and an alumnus have sex.” A spokesman for UM said that “Mr. Daniels remains on leave and a termination process is underway.”
With more than 31,000 undergraduates and almost 17,000 graduate students, the Ann Arbor campus of UM is the size of a small city. Occasional mischief and even some level of criminal misconduct are to be expected. But certainly, the citizens of Michigan should be able to expect better from the high-minded elites who occupy positions of stature in the system. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case.
As the Times reports, “Between July 2018 and June 2019, the University of Michigan received 178 sexual misconduct reports involving faculty, staff or third parties, such as vendors or contractors.” As shocking as these numbers might appear, they actually represent “a decrease from the 235 reports received in 2018.”
So, what about the victims? If what the university calls “sexual misconduct” rises to the level of assault, a victim can file a personal injury lawsuit. If the misconduct is sexual harassment, the victim can pursue an action under the appropriate federal statue.
Title VII is the federal law that permits a cause of action for sexual harassment in employment, so employees of the university would seek compensation under that law. Title IX also prohibits discrimination based on gender in education, so this law would cover students.
If you have questions about your rights following an incident of academic sexual harassment, contact Whistleblower Law Group today for a free consultation at 877.858.8018 or at [hidden email].