UM offers free counseling in wake of sex abuse inquiries of former doctor, provost
The University of Michigan announced Tuesday it will offer free counseling services to anyone who was affected by former university physician Robert E. Anderson or Provost Martin Philbert, both of whom have been accused of sexual misconduct.
"We have no greater responsibility than to advance the highest standards of conduct and to uphold the trust of the public and the members of our community who choose to study, work or seek care at the University of Michigan," President Mark Schlissel and the UM Board of Trustees said in a statement.
The statement comes as university is dealing with two high-profile sexual misconduct cases that emerged this year.
UM put Philbert on leave in January amid several allegations of sexual misconduct.
Last week, after inquiries from The Detroit News, UM said it was investigating sexual misconduct allegations against Anderson, the former head of University Health Service and team physician for the UM Athletic Department. Anderson, who worked for UM from 1968 to 2003, died in 2008.
As of Tuesday, 74 people had reached out to UM after it publicized a hotline last week and asked those who had been hurt by Anderson to come forward, university spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said.
According to a police investigation, Anderson treated students at UM for 24 years after being forced out of student health services for "fooling around with male students." According to documents obtained by The News, a former university administrator who ousted Anderson in 1979, Thomas Easthope, expressed shock to UM police that Anderson had continued to treat student patients, saying police "may have over 100 victims."
UM has hired outside law firms to look into both cases.
The university's statement outlined the "clear and decisive actions" officials have taken in response to the Anderson case.
"First, through an independent, external investigation team, the university will conduct an unflinching review of the facts — wherever they may lead — and will then provide to the public a full accounting of the harms caused to former patients by Anderson as well as any institutional failings that allowed him to keep practicing," the statement said. "We promise to fully respect the privacy and confidentiality of witnesses as we do this."
UM reported that "numerous people" have made reports but didn't specify how many. The last report was Friday morning, when UM spokesman Rick Fitzgerald reported 31 calls.
"We strongly encourage anyone who may have been affected by Anderson to contact the Compliance Hotline (866-990-0111) or the outside, independent law firm, Steptoe & Johnson, based in Washington, D.C.," the statement said. "Investigators can be reached directly at (202) 419-5162 or UofM@steptoe.com."
The university said it was engaging a national counseling firm "to coordinate this care with local counselors in communities where these individuals now live."
"We are working diligently to have these confidential services in place in the coming days and our provider will reach out to offer these services individually," the statement said. "No contact with the university will be required."
Michigan State University also set up counseling for victims and their families in 2018 during the scandal involving now-imprisoned Larry Nassar, a sports doctor who abused hundreds of young athletes under the guise of medicine.
"At the University of Michigan, we condemn all sexual misconduct, especially instances that occur under the purview of our public mission," the statement said. "This type of conduct is reprehensible — and whether it takes place now or took place in the past, it is unacceptable."