UM adopting new sexual misconduct policies in wake of Anderson

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

The University of Michigan announced new policies for addressing sexual misconduct Thursday as dozens of people who have accused former university Dr. Robert Anderson of sexual assault demonstrated ahead of a Board of Regents meeting.

President Mark Schlissel addressed the changes at the school's Board of Regents meeting as it met in-person for the first time since the pandemic led to virtual meetings.

The official photo of team physician Dr. Robert Anderson from the 1992 University of Michigan football media guide.

The new policy outlines two categories of “individuals with reporting obligations” who are mandated to report prohibited conduct they are made aware of.

Though a previous policy included mandatory reporters for allegations of sexual misconduct, the new policy defines the scope. Officials who have authority to take corrective action — such as regents, executive officers, chancellors, deans, head coaches and others — are required to report all information about prohibited conduct they receive, regardless of how or when they learn of the information.

The second category of mandatory reporters includes assistant and associate deans, other administrators and supervisors, and faculty members who accompany students on university-related travel abroad. Those individuals are also required to report information about prohibited conduct that they learn about in the scope of their university employment. But there are situations in which this group of employees is exempt from reporting obligations, such as sexual misconduct awareness events.

Richard Goldman (from left), a University of Michigan student sports announcer in the 1980's, Tad DeLuca, a former UM wrestler, Jon Vaughn, a former UM athlete, and attorney Parker Steinar, address the news media about former UM Dr. Robert Anderson during a press conference in Ann Arbor on June 16, 2021. The college will consider adopting new policies for addressing sexual misconduct Thursday.

The policy also outlines an appeals process for employees who are found to have violated university policy regarding sexual or gender-based misconduct.

The policy will go into effect Oct. 1 on UM's Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint campuses, as well as at Michigan Medicine, the university hospital system. It will replace an interim policy adopted in August 2020.

“I thank the many individuals in the community who helped us craft this important policy, especially the survivors whose painful experiences remind us always that we must continue to strive to be a better, more supportive university," UM President Mark Schlissel said during Thursday’s board meeting.

Board Chair Jordan Acker said the policy follows numerous other steps the university has taken to transform how the college addresses sexual misconduct.

"And our work is not done," Acker said.

The policy comes as UM has been grappling with numerous sexual misconduct scandals. The college settled for $9.25 million last year with eight women who said they were victimized by former Provost Martin Philbert, at the time the second-highest-ranking official at the university. 

The college settled for $9.25 million last year with eight women who said they were victimized by former Provost Martin Philbert, shown here on May 4, 2019.

UM is in mediation with about850 former UM students and others who claim they were sexually abused by Anderson, the former head of University Health Service and physician for the Athletic Department. Anderson retired from the university in 2003 and died in 2008.

A report commissioned by UM from the WilmerHale law firm and released earlier this year showed more than two dozen UM employees were told about Anderson's alleged behavior over his nearly 40-year career. While several employees reported Anderson after learning of complaints, the majority of the people his patients told — including some of the most powerful people on campus — did not act to stop the doctor, the report found.

Dozens of Anderson's accusers gathered prior to the regents' meeting outside the Richard L. Postma Family Clubhouse.

The university put in place a policy in 2019 that faculty are prohibited from having romantic or sexual relationships with undergraduate students. 

Earlier this year, the college adopted a policy that prohibits a supervisor from initiating or attempting to initiate an intimate relationship with anyone they supervise.

kkozlowski@detroitnews.com