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“Once again, The University of Michigan has historically silenced the voices of survivors,” reads a sign facing the President’s House. To the sign’s right stands former U-M football player Jonathan Vaughn, bound by chains and tied to a tree in an act of protest and defiance against the University.
“I don’t wish for me or anyone else to be tied, bound, gagged, neglected or robbed of their confidence and health by another university again,” the sign reads.
Vaughn told The Daily on Saturday that starting at 11:26 AM, he would stand chained to the tree for the next 17.5 hours: one minute for every known Anderson survivor. A countdown timer sat atop the sign to Vaughn’s left.
“There are 1,050 victims that are in the first wave of the settlement,” Vaughn said. “(The University) is trying to keep us chained to our trauma. So I’m doing one minute in solidarity with the 1,050, so that’s how it came out to 17 and a half hours.”
Dozens of students, alumni and University community members gathered in front of the President’s House on March 12 in response to the University’s removal of the “Hail to the Victims” campsite after 150 days of protest. Vaughn previously told The Michigan Daily he was unaware of the University’s decision to dismantle the campsite.
Vaughn, one of over a thousand sexual abuse survivors of former University athletic doctor Robert Anderson, said he was wrapped in chains to symbolize how the University has continued to fail survivors such as himself, leaving them “tied” and “bound” to their trauma.
Protestors wrote on notecards with phrases such as “Hail to the Victims” and “No more cover ups” and attached them to the chains holding Vaughn. He was joined by a handful of other survivors who also came out in protest of the University.
LSA senior Zackariah Farah, vice president of LSA Student Government, said the University’s behavior toward the Anderson survivors has continued to be “unacceptable” despite a change in leadership in January. The Hail to the Victims movement first began last October.
“I’m glad that they reached a settlement with the survivors, but to remove his camp … that is just another slap in the face,” Farah said. “Although we have new leadership at the University, we have President Mary Sue Coleman, it feels like we’re back to the same old schtick. It’s the same response regardless of which president we have.”
Farah then said he observed similar levels of indifference from other University officials at the Feb. 17 Board of Regents meeting.
“I was recently at a regents meeting and they didn’t even mention this once,” Farah said. “They just patted themselves on the back about their accomplishments and didn’t talk about what students are talking about and what students are worried about, which is why the University isn’t properly responding to … potentially the biggest sexual assault case in the history of the United States.”
An hour after the timer began, Vaughn addressed the crowd and called for a moment of silence for the Anderson survivors who have passed away over the past few years.
“There’s been at least five of my brothers and sisters, survivors from Anderson, that have passed in the last two years in which we’ve been going through mediation with Michigan,” Vaughn said. “So I want to honor them with just a moment of silence.”
LSA sophomore Lydia Kado, chair of the LSA Student Government’s Sexual Misconduct Response and Prevention Task Force, said she and other LSA SG representatives wanted to show support for the Anderson survivors in any way they could.
“When we heard about the administration taking (the protestors’) campsite down, we found that that was a very disrespectful thing to do,” Kado said. “We’re here to stand with them.”
The sign, bordered with maize and blue tape and titled “Why I Stand Chained and Bound!,” stood tall next to Vaughn.
“Here is where I remind the University of Michigan once again, that I am NOT John Doe. I am Jon Vaughn,” the sign read.
Daily Staff Reporter Irena Li can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.