By Anmol Kaur
In January 2022, the University of Michigan made headlines as it reached a settlement in which it will pay hundreds of millions of dollars to victims of sexual misconduct that spanned over four decades at the university.
Dr. Robert Anderson was a University of Michigan faculty member from 1966 to 2003 as director of University Health Services and physician for numerous athletic teams. According to the firm handling the settlement for the university, the first known incident of sexual abuse dates back to the 1960s. Anderson sexually abused students during medical examinations and most of his victims were male athletes. In 1975, former student athlete Tad Deluca wrote a letter to his coach about Anderson’s behavior with athletes. This letter did not prompt action and the university did not investigate Deluca’s claims. However, 43 years later in 2018, Deluca wrote another letter regarding Anderson to athletic director Wards Manuel. Deluca has stated that Dr. Larry Nassar’s sexual assault of student athletes at Michigan State University led him to write the 2018 letter. The public statements made by Deluca and the letter accusing Anderson of sexual misconduct empowered victims to speak up and led to a police investigation.
The investigation has found that prior complaints against Anderson were reported to the university prior to 2018, but the university never investigated the complaints. The investigation concluded in 2019 and found substantial evidence of abuse and in 2020 lawsuits were filed. The Washtenaw County prosecutor did not press charges, however, since Anderson is now deceased.
Artwork by Saffah Azeem
The University of Michigan is piled with disappointment due to Dr. Anderson's past actions.
The settlement will pay $490 million to 1,050 victims and an additional $30 million has been set aside for unidentified victims who may come forward before July 2023. The university will not have input on how much money each victim will receive; instead, legal officials will determine individual claims based on the impact of the abuse.
“I am repeatedly let down as a high school student and future college student. It is sad to think that a college, a place that is supposed to represent enlightenment and growth, was a source of sadness for many. Essentially stripping these victims of their dignity and silencing them taught them that justice will never prevail. I do not think any sum of money can amount to the abuse and torment the victims faced, but this is a sign of progress and represents the fact that justice will always prevail,” senior Mariya Kooran said.
Many victims and current students at the university have called for a change in university leadership and, in late September 2021, protested outside the school’s governing board meeting to demand more accountability by school officials.
“Overall, I think it is an absolutely awful situation to be in and it scares me to think about how many similar cases may be happening that have not yet been uncovered. I think the settlement is the right first step for the university. It is important for them to continue to build on this and take further, important steps to support survivors and prevent future misconduct,” senior Miranda Lin said.
“...prior complaints against Anderson were reported to the university prior to 2018, but the university never investigated the complaints...”
In July 2021, then university president Mark Schlissel released a statement communicating the university’s goal to change their response to sexual misconduct and their preventative methods. As a result, the Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office was established and addressed sexual misconduct by providing support, education and prevention resources. The settlement aims to support victims, aid them in their healing process and deliver justice.