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UM's Schlissel thanks accusers of Robert Anderson for 'bravery' in coming forward

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel on Thursday addressed the men and women who say they were sexually assaulted by the late university doctor Robert Anderson.

"We thank them for their bravery in coming forward, sharing deeply personal and painful stories, through public comment sessions, with investigators, to the news media and in demonstrations including the one on the Ann Arbor campus in front of my house," Schlissel said during a Board of Regents meeting held in Flint.

Regent Sarah Hubbard talks with University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel before the Board of Regents meeting in Flint on Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021. During the meeting, Schlissel addressed the men and women who say they were sexually assaulted by the late university doctor Robert Anderson.

Schlissel was referring to Jon Vaughn, a former UM and professional football player who has been camped out in front of the president's university-owned residence for 13 days demanding to speak to Schlissel and regents. 

Vaughn and hundreds of other people, mostly men, say they were sexually assaulted by Anderson, who served more than three decades as UM's head of University Health Services and team physician for the school's Athletic Department.

Vaughn's presence has led to larger protests involving UM students as well as women and men who have accused the late Ohio State University doctor Richard Strauss and victims of the now-incarcerated and former Michigan State University doctor Larry Nassar.

"The regents and I have heard them," said Schlissel. "We are listening intently and encourage any survivors to speak out. We value their voices. We will be back in Ann Arbor for our meeting in December. The opportunity to speak to the regents and me will still be available then at our public session and we welcome this important conversation."

Schlissel added that the university is still working toward, "fair compensation for the Anderson survivors" through mediation. He also outlined the progress of UM's new Equity, Civils RightsandTitle IX Office.

The Board of Regents has a policy that caps the number of people who can speak about a specific topic at five each meeting, and that has been a frustration for Anderson's accusers.

The school received more than 2,100 complaints against Anderson last year and is in mediation with more than 850 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 investigation by and subsequent 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.

Regent Denise Ilitch also spoke, saying she wanted to echo Schlissel's comments.

"I want to reference the WilmerHale report and just comment on how difficult and painful that report was," said Ilitch. "We are listening to the survivors. We are listening to the experience that you had and to your journey."

After the meeting, Vaughn spoke with the news media by phone and said he couldn't believe that Schlissel made his comments in a meeting more than 50 miles away from the Ann Arbor campus when he and other survivors have been within 100 feet of the UM president on several occasions since his campout began.

Jon Vaughn, a former UM and professional football player who has been camped out in front of the president's university-owned residence for 13 days demanding hoping to speak to President Mark Schlissel and regents.

"He went all the way to Flint to make a statement about us," said Vaughn. "Once again it's another failed attempt in our eyes to make Michigan look good, stand behind the block M. You really aren't trying to interact with us."

Asked what he would like to hear Schlissel say to him, he said a simple greeting might be a good start.

"Isn't that what people do, they greet each other?" Vaughn asked. "I am not trying to resolve this case in an interaction with the president at his house. But speak to me like a human being. How about, 'Hello.'"

kkozlowski@detroitnews.com