While Michigan provost, Hanlon received misconduct allegations against administrator

by The Dartmouth Senior Staff | 2/14/20 2:10am

College President Phil Hanlon, while serving as provost of the University of Michigan, was made aware in 2010 of allegations of misbehavior against an administrator who was in the process of receiving a promotion, according to a report by the Detroit Free Press.

However, according to Dartmouth spokesperson Diana Lawrence, an independent investigation into the allegations at the time did not find evidence of misconduct or anything that would undermine the appointment. 

The administrator in question, Martin Philbert — who has served as the University of Michigan provost since 2017 and had previously served as dean of Michigan’s School of Public Health — is currently facing allegations of sexual misconduct by over 20 women, with some complaints dating back to more than a decade ago. Philbert was placed on administrative leave on Jan. 22 while the university investigates complaints made against him filed with the school’s Title IX office. 

According to the Free Press, university officials were previously made aware of accusations against Philbert on at least three occasions over the years. 

In 2010, Philbert was one of several internal candidates to apply for the position as dean of the public health school, but a search committee advanced only his candidacy to the next stage: approval by the school’s president, board of trustees and provost. Philbert was subsequently awarded the position. 

After that, an anonymous email was sent to the leader of the search committee and copied to the entire School of Public Health questioning the validity of the search process and alleging that the process was manipulated to ensure that Philbert had “no real competition.”

In response, Hanlon sent an email to the School of Public Health supporting the search committee’s work and noting that he had received two similar emails earlier that year and had spoken to members of the search committee, who told him that the search was “aboveboard.”

“This kind of vicious, personalized and anonymous attack threatens the collegiality of the School and violates all standards of professional behavior,” Hanlon wrote in the email, according to the Free Press.

Sources told the Free Press that the two emails “contained warnings that Hanlon needed to look into Philbert’s behavior” and that Hanlon was told in person by at least one individual that a previous allegation existed against Philbert.

According to Lawrence, Philbert underwent a “thorough background check” conducted by an external search firm as well as an investigation of the complaints.

“[A] rigorous independent investigation of the allegations did not uncover any evidence of misconduct or anything that undermined his qualifications or fitness to serve,” Lawrence wrote in an email statement to The Dartmouth.

This incident was not the first time public allegations had been made against Philbert. In 2003, a former research associate named Thomas Komorowski brought a wrongful termination suit against the university in which he claimed that he had been pushed out of his job because Philbert favored a female researcher with whom he was having a relationship, according to the Free Press. Philbert denied the claim in a deposition and the court dismissed some of Komorowski’s claims. The university settled the suit.