UM report: Complaints of alleged abuse by Robert Anderson surpass 2,100

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

The University of Michigan received more than 2,100 complaints of alleged sexual abuse against former sports doctor Robert Anderson last year, the highest number of incidents the university has publicly acknowledged to date.

UM’s Annual Security & Fire Safety Report, which includes three years of crime statistics, attributed 1,194 allegations of on-campus rape, 916 alleged incidents of fondling and one alleged off-campus rape in 2020 to Anderson. Those incidents add up to 2,111 incidents of alleged sexual misconduct by Anderson.

It is unclear how many accusers were involved in the incidents, UM spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said in a statement.

Dr. Robert E. Anderson

"The reports came from a variety of sources, including many that were anonymous," he wrote. "It's not possible to determine the number of unique individuals."

He declined to comment on the number of reports other than to emphasize that "The total is not the total number of individuals. It is the number of reports."

Anderson retired from the university in 2003. He died in 2008. 

The university overall had 1,212 reports of on-campus rapes in 2020, compared to 19 reports in 2019 and 43 in 2018. Seven off-campus rapes were reported last year, compared to four in 2019 and two in 2018, the report shows. 

In 2020, UM received 947 reports of fondling, compared with 25 reports in 2019 and 30 in 2018, the report notes. 

Attorney Mike Cox, who is representing 163 largely male clients who have accused Anderson of sexual abuse in lawsuits against the university, said many of his clients experienced both rape and fondling.

He called the 2,111 reports documented by the university "flabbergasting."

The university is in mediation with hundreds of Anderson accusers. 

UM officials knew as early as 1975 that Anderson had been accused of sexual misconduct, according to a report commissioned by the university and released in May.

The report from the WilmerHale law firm 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.

Multiple officials, ranging from coaches to university administrators, received "credible reports" about Anderson, the WilmerHale report found. Those officials, according to the report, included Thomas Easthope, a former associate vice president; legendary football coach Bo Schembechler; former track coaches Jack Harvey and Ron Warhurst; former wrestling coaches Bill Johannesen and Cal Jenkins; and former athletic director Don Canham.

Anderson's alleged misconduct included unnecessary hernia and rectal examinations on patients who went to him for unrelated ailments, manual stimulation of male patients and arrangements in which he provided medical services in exchange for sexual contact, according to the May report.

He is accused by former football players, other university athletes and patients from his medical practice, as well as pilots who needed physicals to get or maintain a license. 

It's also alleged that Anderson collected semen from an unknown number of men. Jonathan Vaughn, once a standout on the football field and a Black man, said the doctor collected semen from him on multiple occasions when he was a student three decades ago, explaining the procedure as research on creating "a perfect Black athlete," Vaughn has said. 

Vaughn met with Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel earlier this year to request an investigation. Anderson researched male infertility and took an interest in andrology, the study of disorders of the male reproductive system. He also was linked to a reproductive medicine clinic during his career, investigative reports commissioned by UM show.

UM hired WilmerHale in March 2020, one month after former UM student Robert Julian Stone became the first man to publicly accuse Anderson of sexual misconduct nearly 50 years after an alleged incident. Stone shared his story exclusively with The Detroit News. That brought to light an 18-month UM investigation of Anderson that began after former UM wrester Tad DeLuca wrote UM a letter about Anderson. The letter was DeLuca's second about Anderson's alleged behavior. His first was written in 1975 to then-coach Bill Johannesen.

UM apologized after the allegations emerged and asked other potential victims to call a hotline to report complaints. The university offered free counseling and promised an investigation.