University of Michigan Staff Knew of Sexual Misconduct Allegations Against Dr. Robert Anderson

Detroit Free Press | February 20, 2020 | Darcie Moran

A police investigation found indications that University of Michigan staff members were aware of rumors and allegations of sexual misconduct by a former doctor for the school football team.

U-M President Mark Schlissel recounted the finding surrounding Robert Anderson, who died in 2008, during a Board of Regents meeting Thursday, and he apologized for Anderson’s actions.

He acknowledged but declined to release more details on allegations of sexual misconduct by University of Michigan Provost Martin Philbert.

During his opening remarks, Schlissel condemned any sexual misconduct, past or present. As he did, an attendee at the Richard L. Postma Clubhouse at the university golf course yelled, “You knew.”

“The patient-physician relationship involves a solemn commitment and trust,” Schlissel said. “The allegations are highly disturbing. On behalf of the university, I apologize to anyone who was harmed by Dr. Anderson.”

The statements come just a day after the university announced an investigation into Anderson and asked for those with information to call the U-M Compliance Hotline at 866-990-0111. The announcement came as The Detroit News first published details of allegations against the doctor.

Anderson worked at the university from 1968 until 2003, when he retired. He was a former director of the University Health Service and worked with the football team under former coaches Bo Schembechler and Lloyd Carr.

The university previously said an investigation was launched in July 2018 after a former student-athlete wrote to Athletic Director Warde Manuel to detail abuse during medical exams in the early 1970s.

The information then was shared with the U-M Office for Institutional Equity and university police, dozens of people were interviewed and several described misconduct, including unnecessary medical exams, the university reported. Most of the exams took place in the 1970s, with at least one reported as late as the 1990s.

Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office determined no criminal charges would be authorized.

Five of Anderson’s former patients recently reported he committed sexual misconduct during the 1970s until 2002, Schlissel said Thursday.

An external firm was hired earlier this year to investigate the allegations, he said. Support and counseling resources will be provided to those who were harmed.

Schlissel also briefly addressed the investigation into Philbert, the university’s top academic officer who was in charge of day-to-day academic operations ahead of being placed on leave last month.

An outside law firm has been hired to investigate Philbert’s full career at the university, he said.

“Because this investigation is so critical and because we must ensure that the outside, independent firm is able to conduct their investigation in a thorough, reliable and fair way, I will not be able to share any details while the investigation is underway, even though I know there is wide interest in the case,” he said.

The university is not just looking at Philbert’s case, but how to prevent sexual misconduct, he said.

The university received multiple allegations of sexual misconduct regarding Philbert, Schlissel said in a message to the community last month.

The university conducted an investigation into Philbert in 2010 before promoting him to dean of the School of Public Health, the Free Press previously reported.

Schlissel expressed gratitude and commended the courage of those who came forward on Anderson.

He also noted efforts to change the culture on campus, including that 97% of staff have taken a newly required sexual misconduct training.

“To anyone who comes forward with information about any misconduct at U of M,  I personally commit that you will be taken seriously and protected from retaliation and that accusations will be thoroughly investigated,” Schlissel said.

As of Thursday morning, the university had received 22 calls regarding Anderson on its hotline, university spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said in an email.

At least two men have publicly come forward with allegations against the late Anderson.

Gary Bailey, 72, of Dowagiac told the Associated Press that Anderson dropped his pants and asked Bailey to fondle his genitals in a medical exam during Bailey’s senior year in 1968 or 1969.

Bailey said he described the behavior as “inappropriate” in a complaint form filed with the University Health Service within a month or so of the incident, the AP reported. He never heard back.

Another man, Robert Julian Stone, also told the AP that Anderson assaulted him during a medical appointment at the university health center in 1971.

Stone told the AP that he contacted the university about the incident last summer. Both men were initially interviewed by the News.

A representative of the Washtenaw County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office said its team first received the police department’s report in late April or early May of 2019 and concluded the investigation with no criminal charges that summer, the AP reports.

No criminal charges were authorized because the primary suspect was dead and the cases fell outside of the state’s six-year statute of limitations, according to the AP.  The same conclusion was reached in the fall after a supplemental report was reviewed.

In the initial release on the Anderson case, the university stated the prosecutor’s office made its determination on Feb. 18.

Schlissel on Thursday said that the university approached the public following the police investigation.