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Trigger Warning: The following article depicts sexual misconduct.
For former University of Michigan running back Jonathan Vaughn, Jan. 17 marks the 100th day camping outside the house of former University President Mark Schlissel. On Oct. 8, 2021, Vaughn first set up camp to protest the University’s handling of the hundreds of sexual assault allegations against the late University doctor Robert Anderson, and he has since remained steadfastly stationed outside the presidential residence.
One of Anderson’s victims, Vaughn committed to staying in front of the President’s House for 100 days or until Schlissel and the regents agreed to meet with him and other survivors about the University’s role in Anderson’s abuse.
However, in a Jan. 12 interview with The Michigan Daily, Vaughn said he now plans to extend the protest beyond the 100 day mark.
“I don’t know exactly how many days, but I won’t be leaving on the 17th,” Vaughn said. “The job’s not done.”
Vaughn is also running for a position on the Board of Regents. In 2022, two seats on the board are up for grabs—on Nov. 8, a statewide vote will decide who fills them. Vaughn said he plans to announce his specific campaign platform in the coming weeks.
Vaughn said while his recent cancer diagnosis has not impacted his positive outlook or his political campaign, it has made him quicker to fatigue, adding to the numerous health challenges he has already faced during his protest.
“I’ve lost weight,” Vaughn said. “I just diet to maintain the amount of calories to not only stay warm but to stand up. I had to really change my diet in a very unnatural way to be successful with calories to make it through these 100 days.”
Vaughn said he will undergo surgery at Michigan Medicine for his prostate cancer on Fri. Jan. 21. In a Monday text message to The Daily, Vaughn confirmed he plans to be back at the South University residence Jan. 24.
In a email to The Daily on Friday, University spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald reiterated the University’s commitment to hearing out survivors of sexual misconduct.
“We thank Jon Vaughn and all survivors of the late Robert Anderson’s abuse who have come forward to share their stories,” Fitzgerald wrote. “(Former) President Schlissel, members of the Board of Regents and many, many others on our campus have been listening intently to Mr. Vaughn and all Anderson survivors. The survivors have spoken regularly during public Board of Regents’ meetings, shared their stories through news media accounts and written directly to campus leaders.”
Fitzgerald also said the University will continue to work towards fair compensation for survivors through a confidential, court-supervised mediation process.
“We again apologize for the pain they have suffered and we continue to work toward fair compensation through the ongoing confidential, court-supervised mediation process,” Fitzgerald wrote.
LSA freshman Eli Merren attended protests with Vaughn in support of the Anderson victims in the fall. Looking back at the impact of the ‘Hail to the Victims’ movement, Merren reflected on how Vaughn’s presence on campus encouraged current students to take action.
“I hope that (the protest) creates a sense of accountability,” Merren said. “I hope that in the future, the Board of Regents, future presidents, even faculty and administration, will be a little more wary about trying to sweep things under the rug because they know that students can and will hold them accountable.”
Chuck Christian, another Anderson survivor, joined Vaughn in October to camp in front of the President’s House. Christian told The Daily he will continue protesting with Vaughn past the 100-day mark and said he hopes their work will eventually make campus a safer place for the students.
“Nobody stood up for us. Nobody said it was wrong. And nobody spoke out,” Christian said. “After we realized that nobody stood up for us, that’s why we say ‘We’re going to stand up for the students now’, because that’s all we needed was for one man to stand up. … We’re making sure that you guys are safe because … this school is protecting the predators, not the students.”
Christian was also diagnosed with cancer in April 2016 and he routinely travels from Ann Arbor to his permanent residence in Boston to receive treatment. Christian said the ‘Hail to the Victims’ protest has helped keep him focused on a goal and moving forward during a stressful time in his life.
“It’s given me purpose, you know, to be out there because it’s more than just me…,” Christian said. “First of all, (I am) fighting for the thousands of athletes that were raped, and then I’m fighting for the older students that are being sexually harassed and not being protected and taken care of.”
Social Work student Matthew Dargay attended one of the first protests Vaughn and Christian held outside the President’s House. In an interview with The Daily, Dargay said he still believes the University has a responsibility to support the survivors in any way possible.
“The Hail to the Victims protest movement has made it clear that (University administrators) are political figures who are vested with a lot of power and need to use that power responsibly, and unfortunately, they mostly have not,” Dargay said. “The fact of the matter is that whoever takes over for (President Schlissel) is going to have a very clear (responsibility) to actually do something about this and to actually move the campus and the University forward.”
Daily Staff Reporter Anna Fifelski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.