Alumni urge AG to analyze how the College of Michigan dealt with abuse complaints
A trio of University of Michigan alumni and their attorneys asked the state attorney general to open an investigation into how school officials handled previous complaints about Robert Anderson, the late doctor who is accused of having hundreds during his time on campus having been harassed by patients.
A group of more than two dozen former athletes, former students, and supporters gathered across from the university’s soccer stadium Wednesday morning to take action on the widespread sexual abuse case, saying that several former high-level officials in the school’s sports department had more should do to stop Anderson’s attacks.
“Michigan hasn’t changed its culture,” said former wrestler Tad Deluca, who opened the investigation into more than 800 complaints about Anderson, when he wrote a letter to the university nearly three years ago. “Your actions show that they don’t want change. The university doesn’t want transparency about Anderson and his pioneers.”
Anderson held various positions at the university from 1966 until his retirement in 2003, including spending much of that time working closely with the Wolverines’ sports programs. He died in 2008.
Former Michigan running back Jon Vaughn was among a trio of alumni who called on the attorney general to investigate how the school was responding to sexual assault complaints against Dr. Robert Anderson responded. AP Photo / Paul Sancya
Spurred on by Deluca’s allegation and the public reports that ultimately followed, the university hired the WilmerHale law firm in March 2020 to investigate Anderson’s behavior and how others at the university have handled complaints about him throughout his career. The WilmerHale report found several examples of health and exercise workers ignoring credible complaints about Anderson or failing to respond to consistent rumors about Anderson’s inappropriate behavior.
Deluca and others said Wednesday that the WilmerHale report was not sufficiently independent or thorough enough in the questions or answers asked.
“So the Council of Regency, so the University of Michigan – say my name,” said Jon Vaughn, who ran back from 1988-1991. “Because now it is time for all of you who have been abused here to stand up for justice. We speak because every victim counts. I am not John Doe. I’m Jon Vaughn. “
State attorney general Dana Nessel previously said she would not investigate the case until the University of Michigan agrees to give her full access to her records, which would include a waiver of attorney privilege.
“The University of Michigan is actively involved in a confidential, court-led mediation process with the survivors of Dr. Anderson’s abuse, and we continue to focus on that process,” said a university spokesperson in a written statement shared with reporters Wednesday morning. “The WilmerHale investigation team had full access to all available information; it made decisions about what to review and what to consider. Their report made it clear that many survivors needed confidentiality as a condition of speaking.”
Some of the complaints contained in the WilmerHale report were directed against famous former soccer coach Bo Schembechler. Last week one of Schembechler’s sons and two former soccer players got in touch to tell the coach about Anderson’s sexual assault as early as 1969. Schembechler, who coached the school’s soccer team for two decades and served as the athletic director for two decades, died in 2006.
On Wednesday, a former student named Richard Goldman, who covered the team’s games while he was in high school as a radio station, said he also told Schembechler several times in the early 1980s that Anderson molested him when he went to the doctor for a referral to a migraine specialist . Goldman previously shared his story anonymously but decided to publicly identify himself this week.
Goldman said Wednesday he believes Schembechler fulfilled his duties by sending Goldman to tell then-sporting director Don Canham about his experience with Anderson. Goldman said he placed responsibility for ensuring that Anderson could continue to treat patients after 1983, right on Canham’s shoulders. He said he was “very disappointed” that Schembechler did not oust the doctor years later when he took over the sporting direction of the school. He said he had no comment on the claims made by Schembechler’s son Matt last week.
“That could have ended in the 1980s, but it didn’t happen,” Goldman said. “It was ignored.”
The University’s Council of Regency is due to meet on Thursday. Anderson-related topics are not listed on the public agenda. Wednesday’s speakers urged the board to consider waiving attorney privilege in order to allow an investigation by the attorney general. They also urged the board to apologize more directly for the university’s failure to stop Anderson earlier.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.