The University of Michigan has reached a $490 million settlement with more than 1,000 former students who say they were sexually assaulted by a former sports doctor, the college’s Board of Regents announced on Jan. 19.
“Our most solemn responsibility to our university and community members is to support healing and restoration of trust in an environment where safety is paramount,” the board said in a statement.
Approximately 1,050 claimants who had sued the university alleging abuse by Dr. Robert Anderson will share the $490 million in settlement money, meaning that each accuser will receive an average of about $438,000.
The settlement was reached through a mediation process that began in October 2020 and was supervised by U.S. District Court Judge Victoria Roberts.
The agreement still needs to be signed off by the Board of Regents and approved by 98 percent of the claimants. Of the $490 million, $30 million will be reserved for future claimants who choose to participate in the fund before July 31, 2023, the university board said.
“Once approved, we hope that this settlement will continue the healing process for survivors. At the same time, our work is not complete. The Board and administration plan to accelerate further efforts to work toward a campus with a positive, nurturing, and safe culture that reflects our values as a community,” the board said. “We will strive to be free from abuse and sexual misconduct, building on the work that hundreds in our community are committed to succeeding.”
Lawyers for the victims, who are mostly male, praised the settlement that was reached on Jan. 18.
“I am proud to announce that a settlement was reached with the 1,050 survivors of Robert Anderson and the University of Michigan,” said Parker Stinar of the Denver-based law firm Wahlberg, Woodruff, Nimmo & Sloane, which represents dozens of Anderson accusers. “It has been a long and challenging journey, and I believe this settlement will provide justice and healing for the many brave men and women who refused to be silenced.”
Anderson worked at the university from 1966 until his retirement in 2003. During his career, he served as director of the university’s health service and a physician for multiple athletic teams, including football.
He died in 2008. Since then, a string of football players and other athletes have come forward and accused Anderson of sexually abusing them, sparked by a whistleblowing former wrestler named Tad DeLuca.
A report by a firm hired by the school, which is ranked among the top public universities in the United States, determined that staff missed many opportunities to stop Anderson over his 37-year career.
The settlement announcement comes just days after the university announced it has fired its president, Mark Schlissel, after learning via an anonymous complaint last month that he “may have been involved in an inappropriate relationship with a University employee.”
“On Dec. 8, 2021, via an anonymous complaint, we learned that Dr. Schlissel may have been involved in an inappropriate relationship with a University employee,” members of the Board of Regents said in a statement. “After an investigation, we learned that Dr. Schlissel, over a period of years, used his University email account to communicate with that subordinate in a manner inconsistent with the dignity and reputation of the University.”
The university board named former University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman as interim president, adding that it has “full confidence that she will provide the leadership our University community needs during this critical time of transition.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.