A $490 million settlement between the University of Michigan and survivors of late U-M athletic doctor Robert Anderson has been approved and finalized, the University announced Friday evening.
The settlement — which was first reached in January — required approval from 98% of the claimants, a benchmark which was recently reached according to the Friday press release. The finalization process lasted eight months and was facilitated by Robert F. Riley, a third-party mediator appointed by U.S. District Court Judge Victoria A. Roberts.
Division of the settlement funds will be decided among claimants and their attorneys, and the University will not be involved in the process, the release says.
Board of Regents Chair Paul Brown apologized to survivors in the press release, saying the University still has work to do to combat misconduct on campus.
“The University of Michigan offers its heartfelt apology for the abuse perpetrated by the late Robert Anderson. We hope this settlement helps the healing process for survivors,” Brown wrote. “We consider this settlement just one of the steps we have taken in a process we began more than two years ago to fully understand what happened, make amends and enact reforms. Our work is not done until U-M is considered the leader in creating a campus environment that is safe for everyone.”
In May 2020, the University hired law firm WilmerHale to investigate sexual misconduct allegations against Anderson and released the report a year later in 2021, finding “no doubt” that Anderson engaged in decades-long patterns of abuse and that the University had known as early as 1975. Settlement negotiations began in October 2020 and represented over 1,000 survivors who have come forward with allegations against Anderson — possibly the largest number of allegations against a single person in U.S. history.
Anderson was employed by the University from 1966 to 2003. During this time, he was a team physician and director of the University Health Services. In 2008, Anderson died and was never investigated or tried for his crimes.
Survivors of Anderson have made a noticeable impact on the campus community in recent years. Jonathan Vaughn, an Anderson survivor and former U-M football player, spearheaded multiple protests advocating for greater protection of students and increased transparency from the administration. For over 100 days, Vaughn camped outside of former University President Mark Schlissel’s house in protest of the University’s handling of the allegations against Anderson. His campsite was removed by the University after 150 days of protest.
Though the University has issued an apology for Anderson’s perpetuation of abuse, Vaughn released a statement Friday evening saying that the administration has yet to apologize for its own handling of the allegations.
“This will never compensate the pain and suffering we the survivors have gone through,” Vaughn wrote. “Regent Chair Paul W. Brown apologized for Dr. Anderson, but not for (the) University of Michigan’s role in this atrocity.”
Vaughn added that seeing the University being held accountable is a step in the right direction, and that he hopes all who have been affected can begin a journey of healing.
“After being involved in this fight for over 2 1/2 years University of Michigan is finally formally being held accountable for their involvement,” Vaughn wrote. “I hope this day can bring peace & healing to all the survivors affected. I am not John Doe. I am Jon Vaughn!”
University Interim President Mary Sue Coleman wrote in the press release that the settlement is another move towards securing the safety of the campus community.
“This settlement allows the university to protect future generations of students and everyone in the university community,” Coleman wrote. “It complements a separate settlement reached earlier this year that adds a Coordinated Community Response Team to the best practices now in place. We are committed to a safe, welcoming environment for everyone at Michigan.”
Friday’s settlement with the Anderson survivors was finalized after another settlement was reached in March between the University and attorneys representing U-M students in a class-action lawsuit. The March settlement involved a promise to create the Coordinated Community Response Team (CCRT) in an effort to address misconduct and increase transparency with the University’s response to sexual assault and harassment on campus.
According to Friday’s release, the CCRT will consist of around 30-40 representatives from the U-M Ann Arbor, U-M Flint and U-M Dearborn campuses.
This article has been updated with a statement from Jonathan Vaughn, a survivor of Robert Anderson.
Managing News Editor Kristina Zheng can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.