Since Oct. 8, survivors of late University of Michigan athletic doctor Robert Anderson have been camping outside of University President Mark Schlissel’s house in protest against the University’s handling of the nearly 1,000 individuals who have come forward with sexual assault allegations against Anderson. Over the past few months, survivors have appeared in front of the Board of Regents, rallied students and community members at numerous protests on the Diag and testified at hearings in support of legislation protecting survivors.
Protestors say the University has failed to adequately address their presence outside of Schlissel’s house for the month they have been camping through rain and increasingly frigid temperatures. Schlissel has apologized to survivors indirectly at Regents’ meetings and in the press, but the survivors are asking Schlissel and the Board of Regents to hold a formal conversation with them about the University’s role in perpetuating Anderson’s abuse as well as the larger culture of sexual assault at the University. You can read all of The Michigan Daily’s coverage of Anderson, starting since news first broke in February 2020, here.
In a statement to The Daily, University spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald wrote that the University is currently in the process of confidential mediation and that they have been hearing from Anderson survivors since allegations surfaced:
“President Mark Schlissel and members of the Board of Regents have repeatedly apologized to all of those who were subjected to abuse by the late Robert Anderson.
We cannot provide an update on the mediation that is ongoing because it is under court supervision and the judge has asked the parties not to share details of the process.
We’ve also heard directly from several Anderson survivors at meetings of the Board of Regents, through media reports and other direct messages. The president, regents and many others have been listening very carefully.
We will continue to meet in mediation with the attorneys the Anderson survivors have hired to represent them and we will continue to heed the judge’s direction not to discuss the process outside of the mediation sessions.
At the same time, the university continues to implement new policies, processes and procedures in order to make our campus safer for every member of the university community.”
To document the day-to-day of protestors, the encouragement they receive from the University community and the challenges they face in making their voices heard, reporters, photographers and videographers from The Daily sat outside of Schlissel’s house from 10:00 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 5 to 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 6. Here is what we observed, hour by hour.
By 7:00 p.m. on Nov. 5, Jonathan Vaughn, the Anderson survivor and former Michigan football player who has been leading the protest, will have been camping out in front of President Schlissel’s house for 28 days.
On a normal day during the protest, Vaughn wakes up in his tent around 6:30 or 7:00 a.m. and heads to the Michigan Union, where he orders a coffee and breakfast sandwich from Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea. One of his favorite parts of the day is enjoying a morning cigar with his coffee.
At 10:00 a.m., Ann Arbor is a brisk 37 degrees, and Vaughn is getting out a pack of hand warmers from his tent to stuff in his pockets. Putting the hand warmers in his pants pockets, Vaughn said, targets a main artery and keeps his toes warm during the day. Spending anywhere between 14 to 18 hours of the day outside in the elements, Vaughn said staying warm is crucial to his endurance.
In terms of the camp, Vaughn said he has gotten used to sleeping outside but will have to prepare his tent better for the winter ahead. Currently, Vaughn said he relies on generators and heaters to keep him warm, but they do not last the entire night.
What makes his days go by faster and what keeps his mind off the cold, Vaughn said, is being able to talk to his fellow campers and those passing by who stop to check in and offer their support.
Vaughn estimates that in his 28 days camped outside the president’s house, he has personally met around 4,000 people who have shared their stories and supported his cause. Out of the people who have come up to talk to him, Vaughn estimates he has heard around 200 to 300 individual stories of sexual assault or rape occurring on campus in the past several years.
Vaughn said he finds it interesting that young women tend to feel more comfortable sharing their stories with him than with their families and school administration.
“Some of the freshmen are two, three months in and they don’t feel safe, you know?” Vaughn said. “The newness has worn off and they don’t feel safe or they’ve already been a victim. I find that — the word’s not sad, more angered — at how did the resources go so wrong?”
If anything comes from this protest, Vaughn said he hopes he can create a safer campus environment for the students and professors of the University. Later tonight, with the help of other student organizations on campus, Vaughn hopes to use the manpower to bring even more attention to the protest. He notes, toward the end of our conversation, that he will spend most of the day planning logistics for the expansion.
Schlissel himself, Vaughn says, has never walked across the sidewalk in front of his home where the protest is located, opting for an alternate route around the side. Vaughn notes that someone from the president’s house consistently checks for the protesters each morning.
At noon, Vaughn and Jack Hanna, another survivor of Anderson’s sexual abuse, sit in chairs in front of the tents. It is cold, but the two are more focused on their shared goal than the weather. They pull six large boxes of t-shirts, which they will distribute that day and the next, out of a car.
Hanna is an Ann Arbor resident and a former rower for the U-M rowing club. Though he was not a student at the time, Hanna received a physical examination from Anderson so he could compete in a regatta with the club. Both Hanna and his wife were victims of Anderson’s abuse.
“It’s healing for me every time I come up here,” Hanna said of the protest site.
Chuck Christian, an Anderson survivor and former Michigan football player who said he has been camping with Vaughn for 18 days after driving from Boston to Ann Arbor, returns to the site at 12:40 p.m. He and Vaughn speak with passersby, many of whom sign a large “Support the survivors” poster board or take a “Hail to the Victims” button.
“I think they’re letting us know that they realize that this rape culture is a problem,” Christian said of the passersby. “And that they realize that things need to change.”
At about 1:40 p.m., a man arrives at the protest and introduces himself to Vaughn and Christian. The men hug after the newcomer, who preferred to stay anonymous, tells Vaughn and Christian that he was a victim of Anderson. He had flown in to support the protest after hearing about it on the news.
At 2:00 p.m., the camp is humming along. Vaughn is playing some music from a bluetooth speaker, while Christian talks with passersby near their large sign. A few people sign the poster, but most who walk by either have already signed, or they ignore the protest and mutter quietly.
“I walk past every morning, so I do know that it’s about the sexual assault, sexual allegation situation,” Engineering sophomore Collin McManus said. “I can see obviously it’s peaceful, these guys always have great energy. They’re making a statement for sure.”
Christian shares that he is an artist, producing paintings for many notable celebrities and athletes, including head football coach Jim Harbaugh. Everyone is very excited for the campout scheduled for later in the evening. The mood overall is very cheerful. Christian dances, noting how he is grateful that he is still able to despite his prostate cancer diagnosis.
“I dance everywhere,” Christian said after hearing a catchy song. “See, ‘cause the thing is, I was supposed to be dead two and half years ago. So it’s like, I dance every chance I get.”
At 3:00 p.m., Christian and Vaughn are sitting in the chairs outside of their tents with music playing from the speaker. The two talk to a few passersby, passing out pins to those who want them. At about 3:20 p.m, Vaughn leaves and does not return during this hour.
Most of the conversation during this time is with Christian, who speaks with another survivor and us while gluing together more pins. When he was a student at the University, Christian said he painted the mural in the Bursley Residence Hall’s multicultural lounge. Two years ago, Christian returned to repaint the mural after renovations.
Christian’s wife, then his girlfriend, originally recommended him for the project. He begins talking about his family life and his prostate cancer diagnosis. About 18 months ago, Christian was placed on hospice and given very little time to live. Christian has previously attributed his late-stage diagnosis to his unwillingness to go to a doctor after being abused by Anderson.
From his perspective, everything changed when Christian saw his wife praying for his illness to be cured. After that, Christian said he lifted himself up and used the bathroom on his own for the first time since being placed on hospice. He slowly worked his way through to be able to “light up” his son in basketball once again and now sleep outside for the protest.
Christian and Vaughn are in their element as South University Avenue buzzes with students wrapping up class for the week. Just a couple hours after meeting, Christian and a survivor speak like old friends while they glue together pins and “Hail to the Victims” buttons to hand out.
Vaughn takes an order for a dozen “Hail to the Victims” t-shirts that families of soccer players are going to wear to this Sunday’s game, six maize and six blue.
Christian said he prefers the maize.
“They stick out more,” he said.
Kenneth Stockton, an Ann Arbor resident who is a survivor of sexual abuse from a Little League baseball coach when he was a boy, comes to visit the protest once or twice a day. He gives Christian a fist bump when he first arrives.
“Christian, with all of his health issues, it’s amazing that he’s here,” Stockton said. “What Vaughn and Christian and the others are doing here is really crucial — it’s very courageous.”
When Stockton and Christian pose for a photo, The Daily’s photographer remarks on the height difference between the two men. Stockton says he recently had a nightmare about being haunted by someone seven feet tall.
“It’s because I’ve been spending so much time with you, Chuck!” Stockton remarks.
In just two hours at the protest, more than 450 people walk, bike, jog or otherwise pass by Vaughn and Christian. Vaughn and Christian put up signs, make “Hail to the Victims” buttons, discuss their dinner plans and talk with people who stop by.
Christian proudly shows us a video of a song his son had written for him following Christian’s prostate cancer diagnosis.
A large number of passersby are students walking home from class or heading out to begin their Friday nights. LSA freshman Sam Lipsit stops to sign the petition and comments on the lack of education about Anderson’s horrible legacy at the University.
“I think being a new student here and not knowing much about the Anderson situation shows a lot about the situation in of itself,” Lipsit said. “So I think it’s really important that especially younger students here like myself come and learn about this and support the protest.”
Parents and alumni visiting Ann Arbor for Parents & Family Weekend and the Michigan vs. Indiana football game also stop to observe the protest and sign the large wooden board in support of the survivors. Some are familiar with Anderson and his serial abuse, while others have never heard of it.
U-M alum and parent Mark Mulville compares Anderson’s abuse to that of Michigan State’s Larry Nassar. Mulville said he believes the Nassar situation resulted in more media attention and large monetary settlements because it was young girls who were sexually abused rather than 20-year-old men.
“It’s a sad situation, I think it’s getting a little bit less traction than Michigan State’s … mainly because it was so long ago and it was a lot of athletes,” Mulville said. “It’s entirely different than young girls obviously, but not to say that it’s any less of a difficult situation.”
Joe Sharon, a Dexter High School student, walks by the protest with his two friends and stops to read the many signs posted.
“I think that it’s really important that we start to address these problems that have been given a blind eye for however many decades,” Sharon said. “The main thing that should be focused on here is supporting the victims and the people who were harmed by this.”
At 6:00 p.m., Vaughn says he has a headache and goes into his tent to take a nap. Christian grabs a stack of “Hail to the Victims” signs and begins putting them up around campus, starting by the Law School and moving through the Diag. Christian said the signs were donated by fellow Anderson victims and supporters as an act of solidarity.
Christian said he and his lawyers held a virtual deposition in 2020 for fear he would not have survived to testify in the Anderson case due to his terminal cancer diagnosis. Christian said the University’s lawyers treated him horribly and that he wants the deposition released to show how the University treats its former athletes.
Despite everything that happened to him at the University, Christian said he still wears his University gear and roots for the Wolverines.
“I got molested here, but I didn’t really know I got molested here until about two years ago,” Christian said. “For me, I have so many good memories. I met my wife here, I met some of my best friends, I got to travel. I was a poor kid out of Detroit who had never been on an airplane, and then when I got on the team I was traveling all over the country.”
As Christian walks through campus putting up signs, a biker approaches him about buying a sign. Christian gladly gives him three for free before continuing to put signs at the Michigan Union. Christian said his experience with students and the people of Ann Arbor has been largely positive and people are generally willing to show support.
At 7:00 p.m., Christian returns to the site outside the president’s house where Vaughn is still asleep. An alum of the University approaches the tent to offer his solidarity to the survivors, sharing an experience a colleague of his had as a student at Pioneer High School and how everyone was afraid of Anderson’s exams.
At 7:27 p.m., Vaughn and Christian discuss setting up the heater for the night. They debate getting a fire pit and starting a bonfire since it has been so cold at night. Two students later come with two cups of tea for Christian and Vaughn from a local coffee shop.
U-M alum Aylin Golaszewski stops by the campsite at around 7:30 p.m. and told The Daily she found it atrocious that the University had not initiated a formal conversation with the survivors even though they had been camping outside the president’s house for nearly a month. Golaszewski said she found it inspiring that members of the U-M community were taking action to make change.
“It shows that at the very least (that) even if the administration and the people on top aren’t really interested in trying to do things for the betterment of the students and the betterment of the alumni, at least the students and the alumni and people within the University want to do better and to create a better community for survivors,” Golaszewski said.
Though dusk begins to settle in, the atmosphere around the tents is lively. Around a dozen student activists begin joining in on the effort, setting up tents and unpacking sleeping bags.
Members of Central Student Government, Roe v. Rape, Graduate Employees’ Organization, The Sierra Club and Michigan Students Against Sexual Assault are in attendance to show solidarity for the survivors. Some are spending the night, while others stop by for conversation. By 8:42 p.m., eight additional tents are lined up along South University Avenue.
Emma Sandberg, Public Policy senior and CSG representative, told The Daily she and other CSG members are camped out to show support for the victims and to hold the University accountable for its handling of sexual misconduct.
Sandberg and other members of CSG who camp out sponsored a resolution that was passed by CSG on Tuesday in support of the victims and calling for the immediate termination of Schlissel. Schlissel announced Oct. 5 that he would resign in June 2023, two years earlier than planned.
“I’ve been an activist on this cause since my freshman year,” Sandberg said. “It’s now my final semester of my senior year, and I haven’t seen any major changes on campus and I’m pretty fed up. I’m really inspired by all of the Anderson victims and their activism this semester, and I finally feel like a major movement is starting on campus.”
Elliott Brannon, Rackham and Medical School student and GEO member, said he is setting up camp to show solidarity with Vaughn, Christian and Tad DeLuca, another Anderson survivor, as well as the other survivors who have been risking their lives to take a stand.
“Jon’s not doing this because he wants to be out here,” Brannon said.
By 9:00 p.m., the group of protesters grows to around 30. Huddling together in a circle, each individual takes turns sharing why they came out tonight. Some are here in solidarity, and others are also survivors of sexual assault themselves. But everyone here has the same purpose: to enact change.
“No more hiding,” Christian said. “Those days are over. No more hanging my head in shame. Those days are over. No more denying what happened to us. Those days are over. Because why? Because I have a voice. I have a voice. I have a voice.”
The group’s energy can be felt from a block away, with chants of “I have a voice” and “Hail to the Victims” ringing across the street. Very few people walk through the group. In fact, most passersby cross the street before reaching the tents.
Soon after, a projector screen is created using a white blanket placed over the signature board, directly facing Schlissel’s house. A heartfelt video shows Christian and his son having a conversation about his diagnosis in 2016. Christian’s son then gifted his father a song titled “Superman,” which plays at the end of the video.
The atmosphere is heavy, with many in the crowd tearing up, including Christian himself. Vaughn brings over a box of tissues for Christian, one of the many moments of sincere understanding and true friendship between the two.
After the video finishes, Vaughn, visibly moved, stands up to speak about his friend. He says Christian agreed to stand beside him protesting against Schlissel even before the pair had a solid plan to pull it off. The hushed crowd watches as Vaughn continues to praise Christian’s friendship and dedication to their cause.
“You’re my Superman,” Vaughn said, referencing the tribute from Christian’s son and reaching in to hug Christian.
Vaughn calls the protest a “tactical offense,” likening the survivors’ efforts to a game of chess against the University. The crowd cheers in support as he speaks of their preparedness.
A couple of microphones, a laptop and a speaker is all it takes to set up the first “Hail to the Victims Karaoke Night.” Both the Anderson survivors and those walking by sing various songs, inviting the rest of the crowd to join in. Vaughn raps along to a Run-D.M.C. song which he says was “his freshman song” and one he remembers singing in the school cafeteria.
Business senior Job Mayhue is part of the men’s track and field team at the University, as well as a member of Take Back the Night, a student-run campaign against sexual violence.
Mayhue told The Daily he heard about the Anderson survivors’ camp-out through his work with Take Back the Night, but Friday night was his first time visiting. Mayhue has several conversations with Vaughn and Christian throughout the hour and told The Daily that witnessing the simultaneous vulnerability and strength of the survivors is incredibly inspiring.
“I think everyone should just take the time to really think about this,” Mayhue said. “It’s easy to see it and just go on with your life. But if we wait to care about problems until they are happening to us, that’s a really bad situation.”
As karaoke continues to unite the crowd in song, Vaughn challenges Christian to sing. Christian initially declines and passes the mic to Mayhue, who he refers to as “his son, Job.” Mayhue chooses to sing “American Pie” by Don McClean, but as the 8-plus-minute song progresses, he turns to Christian and other members of the crowd to take the lead.
Christian dances with Mayhue for a while and finally sings the last chorus, to much applause from the crowd. After the last note falls silent, Christian suggests karaoke night be a weekly event.
“Let’s party every Friday night right in front of the president’s house,” Christian said.
At 12:25 a.m., Vaughn bids the crowd “goodnight,” and he and Christian retreat into their shared tent to go to sleep. The entire group quickly disperses, and the strip of South University Avenue falls silent — a stark contrast to the music that had filled the air for the past hour. For a while longer, muffled voices and the unmistakable sound of Christian and Vaughn’s laughter can be heard from inside their tent as they prepare to sleep.
A quartet of student protesters take their last drags on nightcap cigarettes before heading to their tents. One tosses his cigarette butt up the president’s house walkway and looks around for security jokingly.
The steady stream of people walking by are mostly inebriated students coming back from bars and parties.
“They’re waiting for football tickets, right?” one of them quips. His friend, embarrassed by the crass joke, drags him along.
Another drunk student is more hostile as he passes by.
“This is bullsh*t!” he yells. “I’m sorry that this happened to you, but this is bullsh*t!”
Toward the end of the hour, a woman speeding along South University Avenue in a Boober carriage shouts over the music.
“Keep it up, guys — me too!”
Almost all of the demonstrators have retreated to their tents for the night by the time we arrive. At a crisp 27 degrees, we sit bundled up from head to toe in front of one of the tents, our spot for the next two hours lit up by the street lights.
As the occasional Division of Public Safety and Security vehicle slowly cruises up and down South University Avenue, the officer inside gives us a quick head nod as they make their way to the end of the line of tents and promptly speeds away.
The crowds of students heading home after a night out, at first constantly flowing, start to dwindle as the night continues. Multiple people voice their support for the protestors; some ask to sign the poster, which now has so many signatures it looks as if the entire board is colored in, and others offer a passing “thank you” or words of encouragement to those sitting outside the tents.
Not much changes between the hours of 3:00 and 4:00 a.m. — the groups of students passing by have all but stopped, and one of the protesters still outside notes that the street is almost “too quiet.” Lights in the nearby apartment buildings have been dimmed and campus buildings long closed, marking the official end to a busy night in Ann Arbor.
Soon the only sounds to be heard are periodic snores coming from a few of the tents and the ventilation system steadily blowing out wind. Every once and a while, we notice a head pop out from one of the tents, look around and slowly retire back inside.
We speak for over an hour with an Anderson survivor who preferred to remain anonymous. He wholeheartedly supports Vaughn and Christian’s commitment, but he hopes for a quick resolution to the standoff so they don’t bear the cold anymore.
The survivor says he does not understand why Schlissel won’t come out and have a cup of coffee with the survivors, even with no words spoken.
“It would be a positive step for future generations,” he said.
Three people pass by from 5:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m., fewer than the number of rabbits we spot hopping across the president’s lawn. The survivor we’d been speaking to finally goes home at 5:30 a.m.
The first thing felt at 6:00 a.m. on South University Avenue is the bone rattling cold.
The second? An ever-looming sense of being watched.
Every hour, on the hour, no less than two DPSS patrol cars creep past the tent village. They never stop, never say a word. Only glide past and then speed away once they’ve cleared the last tent.
The streets are virtually empty as the horizon to the east glows red between the columns of high rises on South University Avenue. The downstairs light of the president’s house flickers on at about 7:45 a.m. A few student protesters emerge from their tents close to 8:00 a.m. and head to the Michigan Union for a restroom and some warmth.
Chatter among the few awake student protesters picks up as two DPSS patrol cars pull into the driveway of the president’s house. Seemingly confirming Vaughn’s claim of Schlissel using a side door to leave each morning, a single officer exits the car and enters the house via an entrance accessible only by the driveway. Through a window next to the door, the officer is seen talking to someone just out of view, but he ultimately exits the house alone and returns to his patrol car. The two cars idle for a half-hour before peeling out again.
As the morning sun begins to warm South University Avenue, protesters crawl out of their tents, still bundled in coats as temperatures rise to a mere 35 degrees.
“Last night, once I got in the sleeping bag it was pretty warm,” Sandberg said. “I thought it was going to be freezing, but I slept well and I would actually sleep (outside the president’s house) more nights if other people will. I hope more people will pitch tents out here and join this protest.”
A coalition of student organizations — Michigan Students Against Sexual Assault, Central Student Government and Roe v. Rape — begins a teach-in at 9:00 a.m. by listing out their demands for the University. The demands are split into four categories: prevention of sexual assault; adequate response to sexual assault allegations; resources for survivors and victims; and healing the community.
As the teach-in begins, tour groups are spotted diverting through the Law Quad, entering from State Street and exiting from the archway next to Tappan Avenue. Notably, parents and prospective students are heard asking about the protests as they notice the tents.
Of the six or seven tour groups seen walking by, the majority of guides do not address the questions, sticking to the usual tour script. One appears to mention it in passing as two people, an older woman and a girl looking to be in her teens, break from the group and begin reading the signs set up.
The demands are now posted beneath the signature board outside of the president’s house. The student organizations who created the demands encourage anyone with suggestions for the demands to reach out to them.
A second tour guide is heard directly addressing the protest and the goals, but no one from the group breaks away. At the back of this group, an older man dismisses the protest as “overreacting” to a boy who is presumably his son.
With the streets abuzz with parents and students in anticipation for the football game, the survivors had not yet emerged from their tents at 10:00 a.m., bringing the day-in-the-life coverage to a close.
This project was led and organized by Daily News Editor Calder Lewis, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.