The University of Michigan and the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s office are investigating allegations of sexual abuse by a former director of University Health Services. Dr. Robert E. Anderson was a longtime physician at U of M and was a top team doctor for the football teams. Anderson died in 20-08.
The university has gotten complaints about sexual abuse and unwanted physical exams. One former student detailed the abuse he says occurred in 1971, and says many others have come forward with allegations against Anderson.
The university acknowledges that it began investigating in 20-18. Anderson was sued by a woman in the 1990’s alleging abuse during a physical exam. The case was dismissed.
Anderson had a sterling reputation on the campus and Ann Arbor, for setting up health programs for the poor and within the university health services.
The university issued this release:
The University of Michigan is asking any former patients of the late U-M physician Robert E. Anderson who believe they were subjected to sexual misconduct during a medical exam to contact the U-M Compliance Hotline at 866-990-0111.
This outreach is part of an independent, outside review being conducted on behalf of the university by lawyers at the firm of Steptoe & Johnson and employing best practices for handling decades-old misconduct allegations.
Anderson, a former director of University Health Service and a former athletic team physician, worked at U-M from 1968 until his retirement in 2003. He died in 2008.
The action today follows a U-M Police investigation that began in July 2018 when a former student athlete wrote to Athletic Director Warde Manuel to detail abuse during medical exams by Anderson in the early 1970s.
That information was promptly shared with the U-M Office for Institutional Equity and U-M Police for investigation. As is common practice in criminal investigations, U-M Police asked OIE to pause its review to allow a criminal investigation to proceed.
During the course of the investigation, detectives interviewed dozens of people and identified several individuals who described incidents of sexual misconduct by Anderson decades earlier. The university now is asking anyone to come forward if they have additional information to share.
The former patients describe sexual misconduct and unnecessary medical exams. Most of those exams took place in the 1970s, with at least one reported incident as late as the 1990s.
“The allegations that were reported are disturbing and very serious,” said U-M President Mark Schlissel. “We promptly began a police investigation and cooperated fully with the prosecutor’s office.
“As part of our commitment to understanding what happened and inform any changes we might need to make, we now are taking the next step to reach out to determine who else might be affected or have additional information to share. Every person in our community should expect to feel safe and supported.”
The university is making this public outreach now following a determination Feb. 18 by the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office that no criminal charges would be authorized. That decision was based on a review of the U-M Police investigation.
In addition to asking former patients to report any sexual misconduct they may have experienced, the university also is taking these steps:
- Helping any former patients connect with resources, such as counseling, on campus or in their local communities.
- Assessing any new information for further review.
- Committing to a public accounting of the university’s investigation, in a manner that respects the privacy and confidentiality of the former patients.
“I want to urge any former student athlete with information they are willing to share confidentially to come forward,” Manuel said. “The health and safety of our student athletes is our highest priority.”
Interim Vice President for Student Life Simone Himbeault Taylor said, “We want every student—every member of our community—to feel safe.” University Health Service is a unit of Student Life.
The independent, outside review is being conducted by lawyers at Steptoe & Johnson who specialize in investigations. The firm is based in Washington, D.C. That work continues.