Content warning: Sexual assault
Standing among a crowd of students wearing t-shirts with the words “Hail to the Victims” on the front, Chuck Christian, a survivor of late athletic doctor Robert Anderson’s sexual abuse, recounted his experience with Anderson as a former member of the Michigan football team.
“The entire team was raped by Anderson,” Christian said. “Not just that, but 35 years of Michigan football teams were raped by Anderson.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Michigan Students Against Sexual Assault held a protest on the Diag condemning acts of sexual assault and misconduct on the University of Michigan’s campus and calling on the University to better protect survivors of abuse.
The protest was held largely in reponse to sexual assault accusations against Anderson, as well as the response of current Assistant Athletic Director Paul Schmidt and University President Mark Schlissel to Anderson’s abuse.
Speakers at the protest included former football players Christian and Jonathan Vaughn, a survivor of Anderson’s sexual misconduct who has been camped outside Schlissel’s house in protest since Oct. 8.
An independent investigation reported that the hundreds of sexual abuse allegations against Anderson over his 37 years as an athletic doctor were “no doubt” true. Nearly 900 of the victims have already signed a class-action lawsuit against the University. According to the independent report, Anderson specifically targeted at-risk populations such as students who needed scholarships and members of the LGBTQ+ community who may have been less likely to file a report.
The earliest report against Anderson came from U-M wrestler Tad DeLuca, who sent a letter to his coach in 1975. Though Schlissel spoke about the Anderson case at the latest Board of Regents meeting and acknowledged the survivors, the University has yet to provide any sort of compensation.
The survivors — the plaintiffs of the lawsuits — and their attorneys have been in mediation with the University since October 2020. The status of the mediation process or expected resolution date is still unknown due to a lack of public records. There are also strict measures in place that bar all parties from discussing updates with the press due to confidentiality.
Schmidt, who has worked at the University since 1986, was among the multiple University employees who allegedly knew about Anderson’s actions but did not speak up against him, according to a lawsuit filed against Anderson in March 2020. At the protests, attendees and speakers called for Schmidt to resign immediately.
Eli Merren, LSA freshman and the communications director for MSASA, said many of the victims were not acknowledged or completely disregarded when they tried to bring complaints against Anderson over the years.
“For literal decades these people have been ignored, told they were lying, that they were doing it for attention,” Merren said.
Christian said many survivors are still processing the trauma that stemmed from Anderson’s abuse, citing his own reluctance to see a doctor until recently.
“Six of the guys have died because they refused to go to the hospital,” Christian said. “I refused to see a doctor myself. And, as a result, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer.”
The Daily could not independently verify Christian’s claim that six people had died due to refusal of hospital care.
Christian said he promised to work toward ensuring the safety of current U-M students against sexual assault.
“We’re not going to turn our backs on you like they turned their backs on me and on Jon and thousands and thousands of all the athletes and students,” Christian said. “This campus will be safe.”
Vaughn supported Christian’s determination to fight for accountability against sexual misconduct at the University, joining other students in calling for the immediate resignation of Schlissel, Schmidt and the Board of Regents. Schlissel announced his resignation earlier this month, which is effective June 2023.
“Mark Schlissel, we want your resignation now,” Vaughn said. “Paul Schmidt, we want your resignation now. The Board of Regents, we want your resignation now.”
Following the speakers, Business freshman Jada Doerr said the protest and speeches were inspiring.
“It was really powerful how they shared their experiences and they want to make a change for us now, because of what they went through in the past,” Doerr said.
LSA freshman Jessica Zechel attended the protest and shared her thoughts on the University’s actions regarding the Anderson case.
“It feels important that the University value the protection of its people versus the honor around the University,” Zechel said.
LSA freshman Nathan Bolen came to the protest without any prior knowledge about the Anderson allegations and said there needs to be more awareness about sexual assault prevention on campus.
“The fact that I’ve got into school here and I’m two months in before I started to really know anything about what is actually going on,” Bolen said. “We need to have more awareness, and so I think this is like a super important issue.”
After protesting in the Diag, the attendees and speakers marched down to Schissel’s house to demand the resignations of Schlissel, Schmidt and the Board of Regents in addition to compensation for the victims.
Vaughn said though he has been camping outside Schlissel’s house for over two weeks, there will continue to be more protests.
“This is day 18 that I’ve been here day and night,” Vaughn said. “I’m here for 100 days.”
Merren said the protests should should continue in order to address sexual assault allegations on campus and achieve some degree of justice for the victims.
“We can go from there and tackle sexual assault as a whole on this campus,” Merren said. “Because, just like any college campus, we have a huge sexual assault problem, unfortunately. And I think that it’s not something we talk about enough outside of passing conversation, so I think if we made some real change, then we could expect to see results.”
Liz Hwang contributed to the reporting.
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