Editor’s Note: Some of the details mentioned in this story are graphic and upsetting. Please be advised before moving forward.
The University of Michigan continues to come under fire for its handling of reports of sexual abuse from former school doctor Robert Anderson. The WilmerHale law firm released a lengthy and detailed report on Tuesday afternoon that further illustrates how Michigan handled allegations of abuse during Anderson’s employment from 1966 to 2003.
U-M hired WilmerHale last spring to run an investigation of the allegations against Anderson. The firm interviewed over 300 former patients and 200-plus employees during its investigation as they put together their report. The findings confirmed that Anderson was involved in a large amount of sexual misconduct on the job and that people in positions of power failed to stop it from happening.
Anderson passed away in 2008, long before any of the claims were made public.
“We also learned of more than a dozen additional instances in which Athletic Department personnel heard jokes or rumors about Dr. Anderson’s examinations, some of which highlighted Dr. Anderson’s propensity for performing sensitive examinations for no apparent medically appropriate reason,” the report states. “Yet no one in the Athletic Department appears to have recognized what they heard as indicative of abuse or initiated any inquiries into Dr. Anderson’s conduct.”
Among the university employees that were allegedly told about Anderson’s misconduct was football coach Bo Schembechler. The report states that former student workers and players with the program informed him of their discomfort with Anderson’s treatment methods.
Here are a few excerpts from the 240-page report that detail some of the findings of the Anderson cases:
A member of the football team told us that Dr. Anderson gave him a rectal examination and fondled his testicles during a PPE in 1976. The student athlete told us he informed Coach Bo Schembechler that he did not want to receive any future physicals from Dr. Anderson and that “things were going down there that weren’t right.” According to the student athlete, Mr. Schembechler explained that annual PPEs were required to play football at the University. The patient continued to see Dr. Anderson and made no further reports about Dr. Anderson’s misconduct. Mr. Schembechler is deceased. The same student athlete told us that his position coach used the threat of an examination with Dr. Anderson as a motivational tool. We interviewed the coach, who denied the allegation.
A student athlete recalls that his position coach on the football team was present during “jesting” and “joking” about Dr. Anderson’s physicals, including jokes about Dr. Anderson’s “glove.” The student athlete does not know whether his coaches thought Dr. Anderson’s conduct was inappropriate. The position coach acknowledged to us that it would “not be uncommon” for student athletes to make jokes about physicals, but he does not recall hearing any such jokes or any concerns specifically about Dr. Anderson.
A member of the football team in the late 1970s told DPSS that he received a genital examination from Dr. Anderson, who fondled his testicles, and a rectal examination, during which the student athlete pushed Dr. Anderson’s hand away. The student athlete told DPSS that he asked Mr. Schembechler “soon” after the exam, “What’s up with the finger in the butt treatment by Dr. Anderson?” According to the student athlete, Mr. Schembechler told him to “toughen up.” The student athlete told DPSS that “you do not mess with Bo, and the matter was dropped.” The student athlete, who is represented by counsel, declined our interview request.
The current leadership at the university was not allowed to review or look over any of the law firm’s findings before the release of the report on Tuesday.
The Board of Regents and president Mark Schlissel released a statement as the report was released:
To All Members of the Campus Community:
The University of Michigan offers its heartfelt apology for the abuse perpetrated by the late Robert Anderson (deceased in 2008).
Today, we received WilmerHale’s 240-page report at the same time it was released publicly. The report is available on the U-M Board of Regents website. We will thoughtfully and diligently review and assess the report’s findings, conclusions, and recommendations; and we will work to regain the trust of survivors and to assure that we foster a safe environment for our students, our employees, and our community.
The University of Michigan Board of Regents
Mark S. Schlissel, President