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The law firm WilmerHale released an independent investigation report detailing the allegations of sexual misconduct against former University of Michigan physician Robert Anderson on Tuesday.
In the 240-page report, former Wolverine football coach Bo Schembechler was mentioned 10 times. According to the document, numerous former student athletes on the football team approached Schembechler with serious concerns about Anderson’s behavior.
One former student athlete questioned Schembechler about Dr. Anderson’s methods but according to the student athlete, Schembechler told him to “toughen up.” The student athlete told the UM Department of Public Safety and Security (DPSS) that “you do not mess with Bo, and the matter was dropped.”
Another former student athlete told DPSS that, “his position coach used the threat of an examination with Dr. Anderson as a motivational tool. (WilmerHale) interviewed the coach, who denied the allegation.”
The failure of the Athletic Department to protect students from abuse by those in authority goes beyond the football team. A former track athlete alleged that former coaches Jack Harvey and Ron Warhurst both “‘laughed’ and refused” when the student asked to see another physician after Anderson “(groped) his genitals.” Both Harvey and Warhurst deny the allegation.
The report also mentions Don Canham, who served as the Michigan Athletic Director from 1968 to 1988. In November, 1968, Anderson asked Canham to implement a “Pre-participation Physical Examination,” or PPE. Anderson performed PPEs, additionally handling football and hockey games and Big Ten Championship events.
Another student athlete, who was allegedly abused by Anderson when getting treated for migraines, “told Mr. Schembechler, who instructed him to report the matter to Athletic Director Don Canham. The patient alleges that he did so twice, in 1982 and 1983, but Mr. Canham took no action.”
WilmerHale also reported the perpetuation of jokes and comments made by student athletes about Anderson’s behavior, and that “it is likely that such Athletic Department personnel may not have considered the jokes about Dr. Anderson as problematic because they thought their own experiences with him were appropriate.”
At the end of the report’s section entitled “Instances of Potential Awareness in the Athletic Department,” WilmerHale concluded that there was a pattern of misconduct by Anderson that was perpetuated for decades.
Most damning, however, was WilmerHale’s observation of the Athletic Department as a whole in light of the misconduct allegations: “no Athletic Department personnel took any action, initiated any inquiry, or referred Dr. Anderson for investigation….the fact that no one took meaningful action is particularly disturbing in light of the nature, scope, and duration of Dr. Anderson’s misconduct.”
The report ends on a comment that “The University (of Michigan) has significantly changed in the nearly two decades since Dr. Anderson’s retirement.”
The University spent more than $20 million in sexual assault and abuse investigations in 2020.
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