Ex-UM official says he didn’t do more to get doc off campus

Michigan
Robert Anderson

This undated file photo provided by the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan shows Dr. Robert E. Anderson. (Robert Kalmbach/Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan via AP)

DETROIT (AP) — A retired University of Michigan administrator told lawyers that he was furious to learn in the late 1970s that a doctor was sexually abusing students, though he also acknowledged that he failed to ensure that Robert Anderson was kicked off campus.

Instead, Anderson in 1980 stepped down as director of the university’s Health Service but continued to see athletes and others until 2003.

Anderson’s supervisor, Tom Easthope, recently was interviewed by lawyers who are suing the university over abuse that is alleged to have occurred over decades. Portions of his answers were included in a revised lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court in Detroit.

Easthope’s remarks are significant because many officials who have been accused of failing to stop Anderson years ago are deceased, including longtime athletic director Don Canham. Anderson died in 2008.

Easthope, who was associate vice president for student services, said he was “furious” as he marched across campus to fire Anderson based on a report that he was “fooling around with boys.” Students, especially male athletes, have said Anderson assaulted them with his hands during routine physicals and injury exams.

Easthope said he informed his boss, Henry Johnson, who was vice president of student services, about the abuse but that Johnson apparently “overrode” the decision to fire Anderson. Easthope, now 87, said he didn’t tell local authorities or state regulators about Anderson.

“So in retrospect, it doesn’t sound very forgiving of me but I had to move on,” he said. “I had a lot of things going on every day and, you know, I suppose you experience having to make a decision and move on. I can’t explain it any other way.”

Easthope said he knew Anderson worked in the athletic department but that the department was out of his “sphere of influence.”

Asked about his failure to do more, Easthope said: “We live in a different time, and it’s not like that today.”

Anderson worked at Michigan from the mid-1960s through 2003. The university has expressed a willingness to compensate victims with the help of a mediator. But at the same time the school is seeking to have lawsuits dismissed because too many years have passed.

It hired the WilmerHale law firm to investigate hundreds of complaints. A report from the firm could be released in October.

Johnson declined to comment when reached Thursday by The Associated Press.

He told investigators that he couldn’t recall Easthope reporting any problems with Anderson, according to a police report. In a 1980 memo to staff, Johnson said he was “extremely grateful” for Anderson’s leadership at the university’s Health Service.

“Easthope’s testimony confirms that U of M’s most senior administrators were aware of Dr. Anderson’s misconduct yet gave him free rein to continue to abuse” students, attorney Annika Martin said. “All these victims deserve an opportunity to obtain justice and create lasting change to prevent this type of abuse from ever occurring again at U of M.”

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