U-Michigan to create new office to respond to sexual misconduct

Michigan

UNDATED (WOOD) — Some of the people who say they were sexually abused by late University of Michigan doctor Robert Anderson addressed the Board of Regents Thursday after the university leaders approved policy changes aimed at preventing future abuse.

It marked the first time survivors directly addressed the board, an attorney representing some of Anderson’s victims told News 8.

Among the survivors who spoke was Michael Serrano, who said he was molested when he went to Anderson in 1968 to be treated for neck pain.

“I was likely one of Dr. Anderson’s victims at the university before he became heavily involved with the sports program,” he said.

He said he was wracked by guilt and that the emotional toll of the assault followed him throughout his life. He said he never told anyone what happened for nearly 52 years until other men’s allegations against Anderson became public in the news.

Chandra Montgomery Nicol said she was abused when she went for treatment of a bleeding problem. She said the trauma she experienced led her to often avoid going to any doctor — and she said that may have contributed to the heart attack she had a week ago.

Another man, Robert Kelly, said the abuse he suffered put him down a path that led him to lose his company, destroyed his relationships with his sons and sent him to prison.

A fourth person, Guy “Mike” Smith, said he was abused repeatedly by Anderson between 1974 and 1979. He said Anderson “stole” his “trust,” “love for the game” and his self-worth, making it difficult for him to maintain relationships, leading to the failure of his career and eventually putting him in prison.

A fifth person, Thomas DeLuca, said he reported abuse by Anderson in 1975 and that the university should have stopped it then — but didn’t.

The survivors called on the regents and other university leaders to cooperate with the state investigation into Anderson and offer transparency and justice to others like them to help them heal.

Earlier in the meeting, university President Mark Schlissel announced a series of policy changes meant to prevent sexual abuse.

“The changes and actions we’ll announce to today, and others in the near future, implement recommendations aimed at preventing harm…” he said, reading prepared remarks. “They effect structural change for the university and empower members of the university community. They address lived experiences and fears in our community and the feeling among some that survivors of misconduct have nowhere to turn.”

He urged survivors of abuse or harassment to come forward to the university, promising they would be heard and that accountability systems were in place.

Among the changes is replacing the university’s Office for Institutional Equity with the new Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office, which Schlissel said would “(lead) with a focus on care, support, education, and prevention,” report directly to the university president and add more employees to take and investigate complaints, as well as support complainants.

Another change is the immediate launch of a new policy that prohibits supervisors from initiating intimate relationships with those over whom they have authority. The university is also streamlining its misconduct reporting process and strengthening its policy against retaliation.

“Today’s announcements are just our latest steps to enhance prevention, education, support and facilitate a cultural change at U of M and address the harms caused by the late Dr. Robert Anderson and more recent cases,” Schlissel said, going on to promise frequent updates on the new policies and future work.

Anderson is believed to have sexually abused hundreds of his patients — possibly as many as 850 — during his decades at Michigan, many of them football players or other student athletes and others who were pilots or air employees sent to him for physicals.

Matt Schembechler, son of famed Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler, came forward publicly last month to say he was among the victims. Several of them, including Matt Schembechler, say they told Bo Schembechler what happened but that he brushed off the reports and did nothing to stop the abuse.

A report released in May by a firm hired to investigate the allegations found people had reported the abuse to Bo Schembechler and several other coaches, trainers and athletic department staff members. Still, Anderson kept his job until 2003.

Bo Schembechler died in 2006. Anderson died in 2008.

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