Accusers: New University of Michigan leader must change culture of violence | national news

Two men who say they were sexually assaulted by a former University of Michigan sports doctor hope a change in leadership with the weekend firing of President Mark Schlissel will allow the school to be more accountable to the victims of abuse.

Keith Moree and Robert Stone told reporters Tuesday that the Ann Arbor school is ripe for a culture change as its board conducts a search to permanently replace Schlissel, who was fired on Saturday due to a alleged “inappropriate relationship with a university employee”.

Schlissel’s abrupt dismissal and revelations and litigation over decades of sexual abuse by Dr. Robert Anderson have tarnished Michigan’s reputation for academics, they said. The school is consistently ranked among the top public universities in the United States

“I don’t know how embarrassed this university can be before deciding to make a real change of course,” Stone said. “But over time, if this continues, a degree from the University of Michigan is going to be embarrassing and it will take a real change of attitude within the Board of Regents to reverse the situation.”

The university is currently in mediation to resolve multiple lawsuits brought by more than 1,000 people – mostly men – who claim Anderson sexually abused them during routine medical exams. Anderson worked at the university from 1966 until his retirement in 2003 and served as director of the university’s health service and physician for several sports teams, including football.

A number of football players and other athletes have come forward to accuse Anderson, who died in 2008, of sexually abusing them.

A report from a company hired by the school determined that staff had missed numerous opportunities to stop Anderson during his 37-year career.

The university has “constantly diminished the severity and harm to its students and the university has long shown more care and concern for its brand than for the welfare of its students,” Moree said. “With a new president in place, the university has a new opportunity to right those it has wronged, to replace a culture of hypocrisy at the highest level with one centered on student welfare, and to promote healing in the university community. ”

The Michigan board of trustees said on the school’s website Saturday that members learned Dec. 8 of an anonymous complaint about a relationship involving Schlissel and a university employee. An investigation found that “over the years” Schlissel used his university email account to “communicate with this subordinate in a manner inconsistent with the dignity and reputation of the university”.

The board named former University of Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman as interim president. Schlissel succeeded Coleman as president in 2014. He announced last October that he would step down in June 2023, a year before his contract expires.

The university is developing a “cultural change process” that includes a campus-wide task force effort to “create an environment of mutual respect and accountability free from retaliation, where everyone can feel safe to report a misbehavior and feeling supported through the process,” the school said Tuesday in an email to The Associated Press.

“Additionally, we are in the process of adding significant staff to the new Office of Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX, which will increase our prevention and education efforts while freeing up resources to focus on investigations into allegations of misconduct when they occur,” University of Michigan spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said.

“We also thank once again all of the survivors of the late Dr. Robert Anderson for coming forward to share their stories,” Fitzgerald added. “We have repeatedly apologized for the pain they have suffered and continue to work for fair compensation through the ongoing confidential, court-supervised mediation process.”

Stone and Moree also said Tuesday that Anderson was also targeting gay people at a time when many were hesitant or afraid to publicly acknowledge their sexual orientation.

Moree graduated in 1981 and lives in Portland, Oregon. He said he was abused by Anderson in 1980.

“I was probably mistreated for just coming out to Dr. Anderson as a gay man given the nature of the visit,” Moree said. “Robert Anderson was a chronic, serial sexual predator who exploited every power differential he could find. serious consequences.

Stone said that in 1971 he was a junior at school and “had just come out as a gay man” when he went to see Anderson.

“I was sexually assaulted during this exam,” Stone said. “Even though Dr. Anderson spent a decade sexually assaulting gay people in Ann Arbor, it was not enjoyable for any of us. What he put us through was so traumatic. I remembered when I walked out of that exam room, I was so disgusted and I was so angry. Fifty years later, I still carry that anger.”

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Williams reported from West Bloomfield, Michigan.

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