President Mark Schlissel issued an apology on behalf of the University of Michigan to those harmed by deceased U-M physician Robert E. Anderson, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by at least five former patients dating back to the 1970s.
Schlissel’s comments came during his opening remarks of the Feb. 20 Board of Regents meeting where he also urged anyone at the university with information about sexual misconduct at U-M to come forward stating that they would be taken seriously and protected from retaliation, and that accusations would be thoroughly investigated.
“As a physician, scientist, father and university president, I condemn all sexual misconduct, especially instances that occur under the purview of our public mission. This type of conduct is reprehensible — and whether it takes place now or took place in the past, it is unacceptable,” Schlissel said.
“All students, faculty and staff at U-M deserve to feel safe and supported. We must remain vigilant in encouraging reporting and supporting those who come forward or who have been affected by sexual misconduct. These are actions we can all take to address the issue and make our community better.”
“We have no greater responsibility than to advance the highest standards of conduct and to uphold the trust of the public and the members of our community who choose to study, work or seek care at the University of Michigan,” he added.
Earlier in the week, the university issued a public announcement asking any former patients of Anderson who believe they were subjected to sexual misconduct during medical exams to contact a dedicated call center at 855-336-5900. The call center will be staffed Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-10 p.m.
Anderson, who died in 2008, worked at U-M from 1968 until his retirement in 2003 serving in a variety of roles, including director of University Health Service and as an athletic team physician.
U-M’s public outreach is part of an independent, outside review being conducted on behalf of the university by lawyers at the firm of Steptoe & Johnson. The review launched in January and will help inform any changes to university policy or procedures.
The external review follows the completion of an earlier U-M Police investigation into the decades-old allegations of sexual misconduct by Anderson. In April 2019, U-M turned over the case to the Washtenaw Prosecutor’s office, who said Feb. 18 there would be no criminal charges filed.
“The patient-physician relationship involves a sacred commitment and trust. The allegations are highly disturbing,” Schlissel said.
Between Feb. 19 and the morning of Feb. 21, 31 calls were received on the Compliance Hotline specific to Anderson.
The president also provided an update on the investigation into alleged sexual misconduct by Provost Martin Philbert, who was put on administrative leave in January pending the completion of an investigation conducted by an external law firm.
Schlissel noted while there is limited information to share regarding the ongoing investigation, it is critical that U-M ensure a thorough, fair and independent investigation that provides Philbert with due process.
“While it is early in the process, I can assure you that we are not just looking to know what happened — but what we need to do to improve, and to make our community as safe and free from misconduct as possible for all its members,” Schlissel said.
In recent months, the university has implemented several measures to continue to address prevention, education and adjudication of reports of sexual misconduct, including:
- Mandatory sexual misconduct awareness training for all employees. To date, 97 percent of employees have completed the training.
- A dedicated sexual misconduct website with resources for reporting and support that is linked to from the main U-M homepage.
- Conducting extensive outreach to the U-M community on a draft umbrella policy on sexual and gender-based misconduct that would apply to students, faculty and staff on the Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint campuses.
- Creation of a new position of associate vice president for institutional equity responsible for overseeing the operation of the Office for Institutional Equity and for providing leadership and direction in support of diversity, inclusiveness, equal access, equitable treatment and cultural understanding and competency.
Note: This article has been amended from earlier versions to update the number of calls made to the Compliance Hotline, and to reflect a new contact number for those reporting alleged misconduct.