A settlement reached in January between the University of Michigan and attorneys for more than 1,000 claimants who alleged abuse by the late physician Robert E. Anderson has been approved by all parties and finalized.
The university said Sept. 16 the process was completed with guidance from Robert F. Riley, a neutral, third-party mediator appointed by U.S. District Judge Victoria A. Roberts.
The approximately $490 million settlement required consent from 98% of the claimants, a milestone that was recently reached.
“The University of Michigan offers its heartfelt apology for the abuse perpetrated by the late Robert Anderson. We hope this settlement helps the healing process for survivors,” said Board of Regents Chair Paul Brown.
“We consider this settlement just one of the steps we have taken in a process we began more than two years ago to fully understand what happened, make amends and enact reforms. Our work is not done until U-M is considered the leader in creating a campus environment that is safe for everyone.”
Claimants and their attorneys will be responsible for deciding how to divide settlement funds. The university has no role in that process.
President Mary Sue Coleman said finalizing this settlement continues the university’s momentum in addressing misconduct.
“This settlement allows the university to protect future generations of students and everyone in the university community. It complements a separate settlement reached earlier this year that adds a Coordinated Community Response Team to the best practices now in place,” Coleman said. “We are committed to a safe, welcoming environment for everyone at Michigan.”
In August, the university finalized a settlement in a separate class-action lawsuit that has led to the formation of a team of about 30-40 representatives from across the Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint campuses to meet regularly and advise the university on a wide range of approaches to prevent and address misconduct. That team is now being formed.
Leading experts across the country consider this to be a best practice for colleges and universities that seek to enact serious reforms. The full group will meet at least three times per year to address issues on an ongoing basis, and assess, plan, monitor and evaluate sexual misconduct prevention and response efforts.
In March 2020, the university hired the WilmerHale law firm to independently investigate allegations of sexual abuse against Anderson.
Seeking to improve support for survivors and more effectively prevent sexual and gender-based misconduct, the university adopted a set of policies and procedures in September 2021 that includes common definitions for prohibited conduct, separate procedures for addressing allegations against students and those against employees and third parties, and clarifying existing resources and ways to report misconduct confidentially.
Last year, a nationally recognized consulting firm hired by the university, Guidepost Solutions, concluded its work stemming from an unrelated case and noted that all of the firm’s recommendations had been implemented, were in the process of being put in place or alternative solutions were being pursued. Those actions, posted online, include:
- Updating the universitywide policy on sexual and gender-based misconduct.
- Launching a process to facilitate culture change based on shared values.
- Creation of the Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office, with an emphasis on prevention and education in addition to investigating allegations of sexual and gender-based misconduct.
- Adopting policies covering protections from retaliation and regulating relationships between supervisors and those they supervise.
- Enhancing the vetting of candidates before hiring or promotion.