Survivors of the late University Athletic Doctor Robert Anderson say they are not done protesting the University of Michigan for strengthening sexual misconduct policies and protecting students on campus, following the $490 million settlement with the University.
102 days after former U-M football player Jonathan Vaughn first began protesting outside former University President Mark Schlissel’s house, the University announced — after over 15 months of mediation — they had reached a $490 million settlement with 1,050 survivors of the late Dr. Robert Anderson.
Vaughn told The Michigan Daily the settlement was an important milestone, but his work is far from over.
“It’s an amazing win in the battle, but it doesn’t even remotely end the war,” Vaughn said. “My attitude is really business as usual.”
While Vaughn said he appreciates that a settlement was reached and that it is an important part of the healing process for some of the survivors, he said he is still waiting to hear many of the details of the settlement.
“We know what the number is, we don’t know all the provisions … We’re looking at probably a 60 or 70 page document when it’s all said and done,” Vaughn said.
The settlement — which provides $460 million to the current claimants and allots the remaining $30 million to claimants who opt in before July 31, 2023 — was widely reported to include a clause stipulating Vaughn end his protest.
Vaughn said he wasn’t aware that his leaving was part of the settlement and was still evaluating the next steps for his protest.
“I’m in a wait-and-see mode (about the status of his protest) because I don’t think anything has changed,” Vaughn said. “There still needs to be institutional reform within the University of Michigan as it pertains to student health, sexual assault and rape cover-ups.”
University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald told The Daily in an email that the University “respect(s) everyone’s right to protest near the University of Michigan campus,” but did not elaborate further on Vaughn’s decision to stay in light of the settlement nor confirm the settlement’s contents.
Vaughn said there is still too much unknown about the settlement to make a final conclusion about the settlement. He also noted that 332 survivors of former Michigan State University doctor Larry Nassar reached a $500 million settlement — $10 million dollars more than the U-M settlement — in 2018.
“On the surface, the values are nowhere close to what the survivors at Michigan State in the Larry Nassar case (got),” Vaughn said. “I think I just need to get some (more) information.”
LSA freshman Eli Merren, an active participant in sexual misconduct prevention protests on campus, said while he supports the settlement, he thinks the University should further commit to supporting sexual assault survivors.
“I think that it would probably be most beneficial if we had a much more cohesive plan for combating sexual assault because, just from experiences that I have heard from survivors, I’ve heard that DPSS and other agencies in the University of Michigan have been very unresponsive or unhelpful in these cases,” Merren said. “For example, if someone were to be assaulted, sometimes they can even have the entire case dismissed if they didn’t have a rape kit done within the first however many hours because the justification behind that is what can they do now.”
Former U-M football player Chuck Christian — an Anderson survivor who spent one month protesting outside the President’s house along with Vaughn — said he first found out about the settlement the morning of Jan. 19 after being called by a reporter. He said while he was initially disappointed the settlement was so much lower than the one at MSU, Christian said he was proud of all the hard work and dedication that was put into making it possible.
“As I processed it and everything, (I realized) a lot of hard work went into this, and I’ve always worked really hard to get this thing settled,” Christian said. “(The lawyers) were all trying to look out for us, so I’m okay with the settlement at this point.”
Christian said, despite the settlement, he’s not done protesting for a safer campus until tangible actions are made to protect students.
“We weren’t there protesting just for ourselves. We were protesting for all of the students that are there now. And for the students that are going to come there in the future, we just want to make sure that our alma mater is a safe place for everybody,” Christian said. “(We) put the pressure on Michigan to make sure that they really did make the changes that they said they were going to make … that’s not done yet. So (when) we see some serious changes and see some different things happening, then we’ll (consider leaving).”
Vaughn also said the protest will continue to take place until larger, systemic changes are made at the University in regards to protecting students from sexual abuse.
“I have not agreed to any end date in (the) settlement because my protest essentially is not over,” Vaugn said. “It will definitely evolve … (and we will) take a look and see what has worked, what hasn’t (and) how we continue to have progress. The main priority is a safer campus and a safer environment and legitimate reporting organizations within the University structure that have historically failed so many students.”Merren said the protests were a wake-up call to some of the problems associated with college campuses.
“Having this be one of my first major experiences was definitely a wake-up call to the culture of colleges across the country,” Merren said. “Obviously, at the University of Michigan, we have a culture of sexual assault that is so deeply ingrained that someone like Robert Anderson could get away with (sexual assault) for decades.”
Christian said, despite the settlement, the University still needs to be held accountable for its complacency in many of the sexula misconduct instances that have taken place on campus..
“Michigan still has not come clean with their responsibility in this whole Anderson situation,” Christian said. “They’re still saying things like, ‘We’re so sorry for what Anderson did to you guys.’ … What about what (the University) allowed Anderson to do to us?”
Christian, Vaughn and Tad DeLuca, another survivor of Anderson, will be appearing on Dr. Phil this Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss their story and the settlement, according to Christian.
“It’s a two day show, Jon, Tad and I are gonna be on it,” Christian said. “It was really powerful …. We recorded it back a few weeks ago, but people in the audience were crying… The audience stood up and gave us a standing ovation as we left the building. It was really emotional, very powerful.”
Daily Staff Reporters Justin O’Beirne and Martha Lewand can be reached at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.