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U of M to pay $9.25 million settlement to women who alleged misconduct by Martin Philbert

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio

The University of Michigan is paying more than nine million dollars to settle complaints of sexual harassment and misconduct by a former top official with the university.

Eight women, former or current university staff and students, accused former Provost Martin Philbert of sexual harassment and misconduct.

The attorney for the women, Sarah Prescott, says the nine-and-a-quarter million dollar settlement leaves the women with mixed feelings.

“There is never going to be just unmitigated joy at an ending like this one. But I think they also, all of them feel proud to have stopped him,” Prescott said.

After U of M President Mark Schlissel received an anonymous letter outlining the complaints, the university hired an independent firm to investigate the allegations.

Philbert was on leave during the investigation and later was removed from his post as provost and later, he retired.

In a statement, the university said it found Philbert’s behavior “abhorrent and unacceptable,” and conceded the university failed on many levels.

About the women, the university stated, “We thank them for their courage and we apologize to each one of them and to all survivors,” a sentiment expressed by the Board of Regents earlier this year.

Prescott says she thinks U of M leadership learned a lesson from how Michigan State mishandled the Nassar sexual abuse case.

“I think the university wanted to be seen in a positive light of trying to do the right thing for individuals who genuinely, truly had been harmed. So I'm not surprised, I think that it was smart of them," she said.

In a subsequent statement released by Prescott, she added, "The settlement includes the opportunity for the victims to work with the University on future correction of policy and practice, as well as promised policy change."

The settlement avoids a possible lawsuit and battle in the courts. 

Editor's note: U of M holds Michigan Radio's license.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.
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