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Three months ago, I wrote a column about Jon Vaughn’s crusade against the University of Michigan’s administration. Vaughn, one of Dr. Robert Anderson’s many victims, decided that he had had enough, and the time had come for the University to finally be held accountable for its actions. He began his campout in front of former President Mark Schlissel’s house on Oct. 8, 2021 and Jan. 17, 2022 marked 100 days of protest. His act of protest was aimed at forcing the University to accept responsibility for its mistakes and ensure it never happens again, and he wasn’t going anywhere until he accomplished his goal. To be perfectly honest, three months ago, though I was definitely in awe and very inspired by Vaughn, there was very little part of me that actually believed his actions would come to fruition. It just seemed like a pipe dream at the time; a big institution accepting responsibility for a man who has amassed the largest number of sexual abuse allegations in US history? No way. Now, as I sit down now to write this article, it makes me very happy to say I was wrong. Contrary to my pessimistic expectations, Jon Vaughn accomplished part of what he came here to do: he made the University pay. 

On Jan. 19, 2022, it was announced that the University had finally reached a settlement with the Anderson victims. The agreement won $460 million for the 1,050 claimants in the lawsuit, as well as an additional $30 million for any future claimants. In April 2020, the University’s plan to address the allegations was to set up a process outside of the court of law to settle the abuse claims; in other words, they were doing everything they could to avoid public scrutiny and stick strongly by their strategy of cover-up. I still remember vehemently ranting about this cover-up culture and how I believed big men backed by big institutions are never held accountable for their actions; Anderson, to me, was simply the latest addition to this list. But to see the University finally facing some consequences, has changed my attitude completely. Instead of just accepting that the powerful can get away with almost anything, Jon Vaughn, and every other individual who has done their part to push back against the University, has revitalized my faith in the underdogs — and more importantly, my faith in our power as the populous. 

There is no question that the University has definitely been making the right decisions recently. Alongside the settlement, the administration has also taken the action to fire Mark Schlissel from his position as president of the University. And by now, I am sure most of us have read through at least some of the 118 page PDF of his emails illustrating the inappropriate relationship between him and a subordinate employee of the University. Though it was both very disturbing and humorous to read dialogue like Schlissel suggesting they should “go rogue,” the situation has exposed a serious form of sexual misconduct. There is a clear power dynamic between the president of a university and his subordinate, so to engage in such a relationship simply adds on to the University’s large toll of sexual misconduct allegations. However, by firing Schlissel, the University has taken a firm stand against his conduct and is continuing to remain on the right side of important issues. If we are keeping track, they are recently 2 for 2.

But, even though their most recent actions definitely indicate that they are heading in the right direction, there are still many areas of improvement where the University can take more action. For instance, almost two months ago now, U-M students organized a protest in order to hold the University accountable for its climate change and sexual misconduct policies. The strike was coordinated by both the Fridays for Future environmental organization as well as the nonprofit organization Roe v Rape. Though one is seeking a limit on carbon emissions and the other is looking for reforms on how sexual misconduct cases are handled, at their core, both are seeking the same thing from the University: broader transparency and better accountability. I know what you are thinking: “Accountability? Again?” And I agree. There is no doubt about it that there has been a constant theme in the mistakes the University has made; namely, they often seem to have an issue with taking responsibility. So, though I definitely applaud them for their recent string of wins — seriously, kudos — it is my hope that this is just the beginning. Because now that we know that there is the potential to do better, how can we possibly sit still?

Palak Srivastava is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at