“Fools,” said I, “You do not know, silence, like a cancer, grows

Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you”

WilmerHale’s Report of Independent Investigation: Allegations of Sexual Misconduct by Martin A. Philbert was released publicly today. I leave it to the reader to make of the report what they will. As I have on occasion in this rolling record called for reflection on history’s passing moments, here I bring to our attention an enduring truth in many tragedies: the sound of silence.

there is no indication that he (or anyone else at the University) did

Out of a reported 27 pages of comments submitted by University faculty to upper management, at least one – “Re: your administrative appointments: Martin Philbert was/is a notorious sexual predator, physically cornering and emotionally coercing his female graduate students in his toxicology lab.” – was left unread. We are told elsewhere in the report “President Schlissel acknowledged that had he reviewed the comment, he would have routed it to OIE.” The authors of the report believe “that would have been the correct course of action.”

Our systems cannot be so porous nor so dependent on the right people in the right places doing the right thing. Because there’s a lot of wrong people out there forcing good people into bad situations. Maybe in the future, run those surveys through an auto-search algorithm looking for phrases like “notorious”, “sexual predator”, and “coercing”. Throw in “Nazi sympathizer”, “pet abuser”, and “pedophile” while we’re at it. Best to cast a wide net.1

May this never happen again. And when it does, may the victims be heard sooner and their concern taken more seriously. And when the perpetrators are held to account, may they own up to every cent of the debt they owe the victim and the victim’s people. And as those who hurt pay back for the pains they have caused, may we build up the ever more just society.2

As Paul and Art remind us, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls / And tenement halls / And whispered in the sounds of silence.” We need only hear it.

  1. Especially if we have already seen that some are not tending to their own reels.
  2. In this case, by heeding the recommendations of the Report, drawing lessons from what is reported, and reading every damn comment you asked for from a survey.3
  3. Or send it through aforementioned auto-search algorithm.