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Survivors of Robert Anderson call out U of M, Regents for failures, call for better accountability

man talking at a podium
Emma Winowiecki
Michigan Radio

Survivors of abuse from alleged sexual predator Dr. Robert Anderson came together at a press conference Wednesday, urging the University of Michigan and its Board of Regents to take accountability for its failure to protect students over the course of Anderson's career at the university.

Former Michigan wrestler Tad DeLuca commended three survivors whocame forward last week detailing their abuse by the former doctor, as well as the lack of response from the university.

"I stand here with my brothers and sisters. We are not just victims of Robert Anderson, but perhaps, more importantly, we are victims of an insitution that failed us for more than four decades," he said. "An institution that continues to intentionally fail to accept accountability for its decades of failures and coverups. Michigan has apologized for Anderson only. No one has apologized for what the university did. No one apologized for Bo. No one apologized for Don Canham. There was no apology for Thomas Easthope for failing to do his job on several different occasions. I have not heard apologies for every coach, athletic director, human services vice president, or university president from 1968 to 2003. That's 45 years."

DeLuca, who helped jumpstart the Anderson survivors movement and subsequent university-commissioned investigation into his abusive practices with a 2018 letter to Athletic Director Warde Manuel, said even more recent scandals suggest U of M continues to promote what he calls “a culture of sexually-inappropriate conduct.”

“Their actions show they don’t want change," DeLuca said. "The university doesn’t want transparency about Anderson and his accomplices, whether they’re living or dead.”

Jon Vaughn, another survivor, said Anderson abused him many times when he was a U of M football player from 1988-1991. Among other things, he called for Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel's office to conduct a full, independent investigation into allegations of Anderson's history of abuse and institutional complicity.

Vaughn said he and other survivors will “expose the entire truth of this evil.”

"We will no longer be anonymous. We will no longer be faceless. We will no longer be silent," Vaughn said. "We will fight for who those who feel they do not have a voice, and we will stand together in this fight.”

In response, U of M spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said in a statement that the university "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." He added that the university-commissioned report done by the law firm WilmerHale "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." 

Richard Goldman, who was known as John Doe EB-17 in litigation, was a student at U of M from 1981 to 1983. As a student broadcaster at the university, he developed a close relationship with former football coach Bo Schembechler during his time covering the football team. Goldman suffered from severe migraines, so Schembechler referred him to Anderson in order to get a referral to an expert for help.

Goldman says he went to Anderson three different times between 1981 and 1983 to get a referral, but each time left without one, due to inappropriate behavior from the doctor. After each appointment, Goldman says he went to Schembechler regarding the issue, and Schembechler told him to go to former athletic director Don Canham. Goldman detailed Canham's lack of response after his first two visits with him, and Schembechler's response to his third and final interaction with Canham in 1983.

"I could hear Bo clearly of what he was saying, and he was telling Canham, 'What in the hell are you doing? Why hasn't this man been fired? This is third time this has happened. Why have you done nothing?'" Goldman recalled. "Don Canham, as the athletics director, had the power - way back in the 60s, he did nothing. In the 70s, he did nothing. Now he had those three years when I was a broadcaster to do something, and he did nothing."

In response to three victims coming forward last week, including Schembechler's son, Matt, three members of the Schembechler family released a statement Tuesday.

"That Bo Schembechler was, and remains, deserving of our admiration and our love. It is telling to us that Bo never spoke to any of us about inappropriate behavior by Dr. Anderson. To the contrary, in our steadfast opinion, Bo was not aware of such conduct and assumed that any procedures were medically appropriate. 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. If Bo had known of inappropriate conduct, we are certain that he would have stopped it immediately, reported it, and had Dr. Anderson removed from the University."

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Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
Jodi is Michigan Public's Director of Digital Audiences, leading and developing the station’s overall digital strategy.
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