UM widens scope of Anderson investigation, reaching out to all alumni

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

The University of Michigan on Monday sent a letter to an estimated 300,000 alumni asking if they had any experience with Dr. Robert E. Anderson — the late doctor who allegedly sexually assaulted students during his decades of work.

UM already reached out to 7,000 former student athletes in April and asked them to speak to officials from WilmerHale, the law firm it hired to investigate, about any inappropriate behavior by Anderson  — who served as head of University Health Service and team physician for the UM Athletic Department from the mid-1960s to 2003.

Mark Schlissel

The first outreach followed scores of athletes, along with gay men, publicly alleging that Anderson abused them. More than five dozen have filed lawsuits against UM, and hundreds more say they intend to sue. The majority of plaintiffs are former athletes.

The Ann Arbor-based university now has dramatically widened the scope of its investigation by reaching out to all students for whom it has contact information with a letter from President Mark Schlissel, sent via email or the postal service.

"As President of the University, I am writing to ask you to come forward and speak to WilmerHale if you had any experience with Anderson you wish to report or if you have any other information you believe may be relevant," Schlissel wrote. "Safeguarding the confidentiality of Dr. Anderson’s former patients is of paramount importance. Accordingly, WilmerHale will not disclose any identifying or confidential patient information to the University, and the identity and confidentiality of Dr. Anderson’s patients will be protected from disclosure to others to the fullest extent permitted by law."

Anderson died in 2008, but allegations emerged in February when Robert Julian Stone publicly accused Anderson of sexual assault in an exam room when he was a student in the 1970s. Since then, scores of other victims, mostly men, have spoken out about forced masturbation, unnecessary prostate and rectal exams and more.

The investigation by WilmerHale will include a public report that includes "a full accounting of Anderson’s conduct, a discussion of any institutional failings that may have allowed him to harm others, and recommendations for preventing what Anderson is alleged to have done from happening ever again," Schlissel wrote, adding that UM will get the report on the same day it is released to the public.

Dr. Robert E. Anderson

Asked why UM has widened its investigation, spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said: "Best practices."

UM has set up a call center for the Anderson investigation, 855-336-5900, which is staffed Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. 

The university also is offering free, confidential counseling to individuals affected by Anderson’s conduct  through Praesidium. Call 888-961-9273 to learn about how to connect with counseling resources.