Two sex abuse survivors discuss concerns about UM's commitment to transparency

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Two University of Michigan graduates who allege they were sexually assaulted by a former university sports medicine doctor expressed their frustration Tuesday about accountability and transparency at the school in the wake of another scandal at its highest level.

Robert Stone of Palm Springs, California, and Keith Moree of Portland, Oregon, who say they were abused in the 1970s under the guise of medical care by Dr. Robert Anderson, said Saturday's firing of UM's president prompts new questions over the school's values.

The university's Board of Regents voted to fire Shlissel, who remains a tenured professor, as president after the board determined he had an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate.

Michael Connelley, left, consoles whistle-blower Robert Julian Stone, along with JP DesCamp, right,  all have accused former University of Michigan doctor Robert E. Anderson of systematic sexual assault on March 5, 2020.

The findings, Stone and Moree said, reaffirm concerns over the value UM places on its students and employees. 

The pair, who have identified themselves as young gay students at the time they'd been assaulted, noted during a virtual news conference Anderson's transgressions involving student-athletes have been publicized but they claim little attention has been paid to the countless number of other victims, largely from the gay community, while he headed up UM health services.

“I think this (Schlissel) shows there is no commitment to changing the culture,” said Stone, who earned a bachelor's degree in 1972 and a master's degree in 1973 from the school. “The president couldn’t stop himself despite being in violation of written processes and rules."

Rick Fitzgerald, a spokesperson for UM, said in an email that accusations the university is not doing enough to protect students are "absolutely not true."

"The university is going to extraordinary measures to put critical protections in place on top of earlier protections," he said.

"We have added new policies that prohibit teacher-learner romantic relationships, that prohibit supervisor-supervisee relationships and strengthened our policy against any type of retaliation," Fitzgerald wrote. "Additionally, we are in the process of adding significant staff to the newly formed Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office, that will increase our prevention and education efforts while freeing up resources to focus sharply on investigations allegations of misconduct when they occur."

Shlissel's firing comes after the university in July announced a package of reforms to address sexual misconduct on campus that included a ban on supervisors initiating romantic relationships with those they supervise.

The Shlissel investigation, conducted by Chicago-based law firm Jenner & Bock, was prompted by an anonymous complaint last month. It accuses Schlissel, 64, of using his university email account to communicate with the woman, and those interactions "were inconsistent with promoting the dignity and reputation of the University of Michigan."

His dismissal comes two years after former UM Provost Martin Philbert left the school amidst an investigation into sexual misconduct claims. 

Anderson, who formerly headed UM health services, is at the center of more than a thousand claims from students and athletes and others regarding sexual assaults during examinations conducted by Anderson dating back to the mid-70s.

Anderson retired as head of sports medicine in 2003 and died in 2008.

Stone said he was directed to Anderson in 1971 by a gay friend when Anderson was medical director at UM. Stone said he made an appointment with Anderson because of his concern he had a sexually transmitted disease and said Anderson sexually assaulted him during the examination.

Stone said he later learned other gay men had similar experiences when examined by Anderson, who Stone described as a “Dr. Frankenstein” who used electrodes normally used to treat muscle problems to simultaneously stimulate the penises of students and himself for erections and orgasm.

“It was a horror tale … he (Anderson) targeted the gay student community,” Stone said. “He was a troll and disgusting human being.”

Moree, who graduated from Michigan in 1981, said he felt betrayed and abused by Anderson as well.

“I came out as a gay man to him (Anderson),” Moree said. “He was a chronic serial sexual predator.”

Stone and Moree argued Tuesday that the university used tenure and “toxic masculinity” to help cover up misconduct by its “heroes.” 

Keith Moore speaks about gay survivors of sexual assault at the hands of Dr. Robert Anderson and what he argues is a lack of accountability at UM, on Tuesday, January 18, 2022.

Moree said he went to a Michigan official in 1981 with his complaint and was promised “with a handshake” that Anderson would never again be in a position to sexually violate students.

“Instead they shuffled him off to the athletic department,” Moree said. “Anything that happened when he was there was entirely preventable, tragic and did not have to happen.”

Fitzgerald said UM has apologized for the pain that victims have suffered and "we continue to work toward fair compensation through the ongoing confidential, court-supervised mediation process."

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

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