The University Insider is The Daily’s first faculty and staff-oriented newsletter. This weekly newsletter will give U-M faculty and staff the ability to see the most important issues on campus and in Ann Arbor — particularly those related to administrative decisions — from the perspective of an independent news organization. It will also provide a better understanding of student perspectives.
Regent Ron Weiser (R), accused Dr. Robert Anderson, the late University of Michigan sports physician, of sexually assaulting him while he was a student in the 1960s, according to an interview with The Detroit News published Thursday morning.
Weiser said he first encountered Anderson during his freshman year on the wrestling team.
“It happened a long time ago, but we have to make sure it never happens again,” Weiser told The Detroit News. “We have to have an investigation to do that, and that’s what’s going on right now. I want the stories to come out. … I am coming forward for one reason. I want to encourage other survivors to come forward and share their experiences in a safe, confidential and secure environment.”
Other former students and employees of the University have spoken out against Anderson. Former wrestler Tad Deluca submitted a letter to then-athletic director Don Canham in 1975 and again in 2018 to current University athletic director Warde Manuel detailing his experiences with Anderson, though he said these letters were ignored.
In response to the accusations, the University set up a hotline on Feb. 19 for former patients who believed they were abused by Anderson. As of March 2, the University received more than 103 complaints.
Weiser spoke to investigators hired by the University to look into claims against Anderson, but, in the interview with The Detroit News, he declined to disclose what he said to them.
The University was the subject of criticism over the firm it selected to conduct the outside investigation, Steptoe & Johnson LLP.
On March 5, Michael Nimmo, an attorney from Wahlberg, Woodruff, Nimmo & Sloane, LLP urged victims not to call the hotline due to privacy concerns. At a press conference, Nimmo described meeting with Tim Lynch, vice president and general counsel of the University, to voice his worries about Steptoe & Johnson LLP’s investigation.
“A primary purpose of our meeting was to express to them some legal concerns that we have about the investigation, about how it’s being conducted and about how they intend to ensure confidentiality of these victims’ identities,” Nimmo said. “At the current time, we’re advising our clients to not talk with Steptoe lawfirm.”
Steptoe & Johnson LLP has also faced backlash for its representation of high-profile clients accused of sexual assault, a group that includes Jeffrey Epstein, a financier who committed suicide after being charged with multiple counts of sexual assault, and convicted child rapist Roman Polanksi, director of “Oliver Twist” and other films.
Following this criticism, the University ceased its work with the law firm. In a statement released March 7, University President Mark Schlissel and the Board of Regents, which Weiser oversees as chairman, announced the school would no longer work with the attorney at the Steptoe and Johnson out of fear it “could discourage survivors hurt by Dr. Anderson from coming forward.”
“As a result, we have decided to engage a different firm to complete the investigation, while working to ensure a smooth transition and continue the progress we have made,” the statement reads. “We will have more details in the very near future.”
The University has not yet named a new law firm to run the investigation.
Weiser will be involved in setting policy related to the investigation and plans for the University to protect itself from lawsuits. However, Weiser said there will be no conflict with his work.
“As an individual who loves this University, as the chair of the Board of Regents and one of the university's largest donors, I know that there is only one way that we can truly understand what happened and how to make certain it never happens again,” Weiser told The Detroit News. “We must encourage survivors to come forward and tell their story, and protect their privacy.”
Weiser has a long history of involvement at the University and is a major donor to the school.
Weiser was first elected to the Board of Regents in 2016. He and his wife have also founded the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies and the Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia at the University, in addition to serving as deputy chairs for the Victors For Michigan campaign.
He gifted $10 million to the Ross School of Business in February for the creation of a new real estate center. Another $10-million donation established the Weiser Diplomacy Center at the Ford School of Public Policy, which hosted a series of prominent speakers last fall, including 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Weiser is also an influential figure in Michigan and national politics. He formerly served as a U.S. ambassador to Slovakia and was chairman of the Michigan Republican Party until 2019, when he stepped down after being diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Editor Alex Harring can be reached at email@example.com. Reporter Francesca Duong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.