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UM President Mark Schlissel: 'I apologize' to anyone abused by doctor

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — Reacting to allegations of sexual abuse by patients of a now-deceased doctor, University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel expressed contrition Thursday during a meeting of the school's board of regents.

Schlissel's apology came after sexual abuse allegations emerged this week against Dr. Robert E. Anderson, who worked for UM's health service and as the team doctor for athletics from 1968 to 2003. 

At least six people are known to have lodged sexual misconduct allegations against Anderson, who died in 2008. The allegations became public after Robert Julian Stone came forward and told The Detroit News the doctor molested him during a medical appointment in June 1971, prompting the university to reveal that others have filed complaints against Anderson. 

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"On behalf of the university, to anyone who was harmed by Dr. Anderson, I apologize," Schlissel said at the beginning of the meeting. "To those who reported Dr. Anderson, and to anyone who has come forward to report sexual misconduct in any case, I express my sincere gratitude for your courage."

The university became aware of the allegations in July 2018 then announced this week that an investigation of Anderson had been underway and then turned over to the Washtenaw County Prosecutor's Office, which said this week it completed its review last fall. UM officials also announced others had lodged misconduct accusations against the doctor and asked other victims to come forward. 

UM also said it had a hotline available for people to report abuse by the doctor. One person who called the hotline has shared his story with The News.

University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel.

“We must remain vigilant in encouraging reporting and supporting those who come forward or who have been affected by sexual misconduct," Schlissel said. "These are actions we can all take to address the issue and make our community safer and better.” 

Schlisselalso gave an overview of the numerous steps the university has taken recently to improve safety and campus culture, including training for sexual misconduct awareness for staff and an online form that faculty, staff, students and others can use to report discrimination, harassment and sexual misconduct. 

This week, UM said 19 months had passed since the first allegation emerged against Anderson, and that an investigation had identified four other victims with similar allegations. 

In addition, another accuser, Gary Bailey, who earned three degrees from UM, told The Detroit News that Anderson had assaulted him during a medical exam in 1968.

Bailey told The News for a story published Thursday that he alerted UM about his experience with Anderson but never heard back from anyone.

Besides the allegations against Anderson, UM is investigating reports of sexual misconduct against Provost Martin Philbert, who was put on leave last month.

Schlissel gave an update on that case, saying a law firm hired by the university will investigate the allegations and look over his entire career at UM. 

"We want to know all the facts, and it’s critical that we ensure a thorough, fair and independent investigation that provides Dr. Philbert with due process," Schlissel said. "This will take some time.

"While it is early in the process," the president continued, "I can assure you that we are not just looking to know what happened — but what we need to do to improve, and to make our community as safe and free from misconduct as possible for all its members."

kkozlowski@detroitnews.com