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Dozens of survivors of sexual assault by the late Dr. Robert Anderson, including former University of Michigan football players, called on the University for accountability in a press conference near the Big House Wednesday morning.
The conference comes after over 850 sexual misconduct allegations surfaced in the past year against Anderson, who served as head of University Health Service and team physician for the U-M Athletic Department. Additionally, the results of an independent investigation into Anderson’s misconduct by the law firm WilmerHale in were recently released in May. The Wilmerhale report concluded that the hundreds of allegations were credible beyond a doubt.
Richard Goldman, former student and sports announcer for the football program in the 1980s, came forward publicly for the first time on Wednesday to share his story. He had previously been listed in reports and litigation anonymously as John Doe EB-17. Goldman said he reported he was abused by Anderson to former Athletic Director Don Canham three times in 1981, 1982 and 1983.
At the time he was abused, Goldman said he also spoke up to the late U-M football coach Bo Schembechler, who told him to speak to Canham.
Canham did not report the alleged assault against Goldman, and after Goldman spoke to him in 1983, according to Goldman, Canham responded by telling Goldman, “Go f— yourself.”
Following several allegations against the doctor, neither Schembechler nor Canham stopped working with or referring students to Anderson.
In a recent statement, the family of Schembechler insisted that he was not aware of Anderson’s misconduct.
“In our steadfast opinion, Bo was not aware of such conduct and assumed that any procedures were medically appropriate,” the Schembechler family wrote in the statement. “As he demonstrated at many points in his career and to us as a family, Bo had a clear and compelling sense of right and wrong: he would not have tolerated misconduct, especially toward any of his players, family members, coaches or to anyone associated with the University of Michigan’s football program.”
Tad DeLuca, another victim and former student, spoke at the event about his disappointment with regards to University of Michigan’s inaction over the past decades and the past year, especially in light of the investigation into hundreds of allegations against Anderson.
“We are not just victims of Robert Anderson,” DeLuca said. “But perhaps more importantly, we are victims of an institution that failed us for more than four decades. An institution that continues to intentionally fail to accept accountability for its decades of failures and cover ups.”
The University has apologized for Anderson’s actions, but has not made a statement addressing the behavior of other former U-M leaders, including Schembechler and Canham.
“U-M continues to promote a culture of sexually inappropriate conduct,” DeLuca said. “Their actions show they don’t want change.”
DeLuca asked the University to be transparent about Anderson and the faculty and staff who were negligent. DeLuca also insisted that the Board of Regents cooperate with Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel for a full investigation into the abuse.
The third and final survivor to speak at the conference, Jon Vaughn, who was allegedly repeatedly raped by Anderson, joined DeLuca in calling for action from the University to increase transparency and accountability.
“I speak today to University of Michigan students, parents, athletic sponsors, boosters, investigative journalists and most importantly, my Michigan men, brothers and other survivors of the largest, most insidious conspiracy to cover up rape, sexual abuse, grooming and gaslighting … in the history of sports,” Vaughn said. “Today we go from victims who suffered abuse to survivors who take action.”
Vaughn demanded that the University, along with the Big Ten Conference and NCAA, donate $50 million to start an independent nonprofit to eradicate sexual assault and abuse against students and athletes at the University of Michigan and the other Big Ten universities. This proposed nonprofit would render services to other university associations and athletic conferences, with half of the board being victims of sexual assault.
Vaughn also demanded that the University make documents related to sexual abuse public with appropriate privacy and legal protection for the victims.
Vaughn’s final demand was that the Board of Regents authorize the University to cooperate with the Attorney General Nessel’s investigation.
“When does it end?” Vaughn asked. “There still exists a pattern of sexual misconduct on campus and which accountability often… takes years to achieve or excused away.”
Vaughn ended his speech by addressing the role of athletic boosters, finance supporters and corporate athletic partners of the University in ending sexual assault against college students and athletes.
“Is it worth your good name to contribute your dollars and resources to the University of Michigan, who thus far has been unwilling to be truthful, accountable and compassionate to the extraordinary number of sexual abuse victims who are … in their care?” Vaughn asked. “Is it worth it to you to be a co-conspirator with the University of Michigan and turn a blind eye to hundreds of young men and women who were sexually assaulted?”
In an interview with The Michigan Daily after the press conference, Vaughn elaborated on the importance of the current University administration taking action to hold people accountable and prevent future sexual assault to students and athletes.
“I think what we need to do is get real about the disease that we have, which is a culture of abuse, and eradicate it,” Vaughn said.
In a statement issued before the press conference provided by University spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald, the University said it is currently in the process of working with survivors.
“The University of Michigan is actively engaged in a confidential, court-guided mediation process with the survivors of Dr. Anderson’s abuse and we remain focused on that process,” Fitzgerald said. “The WilmerHale investigation team had full access to all available information; they decided what to review and what to consider. Their report made it clear that many survivors required confidentiality as a condition for speaking.”
Summer Editor-in-Chief Calder Lewis contributed reporting.
Daily Staff Reporter Kate Weiland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.