1. Statement on Sexual Misconduct at February 2020 Board of Regents Meeting

    February 20, 2020

    (as prepared for delivery)

    I know that recent reports of sexual misconduct have caused people to feel unsettled and deeply concerned. I urge anyone needing help at U-M to take advantage of our array of support resources for students or employees.

    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.

    All members of our community, students, faculty, and staff 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 safer and better.

    I want to reiterate and reinforce my personal commitment, and that of the Regents and the executive leadership of this university, to public safety and to the support of anyone who comes forward with allegations or information regarding sexual misconduct.

    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.

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

    This week, the university publicly reached out to anyone with information about the late Dr. Robert E. Anderson who believes that they were subjected to sexual misconduct during medical exams by him. This follows completion of a police investigation that found significant evidence of abuse. These results were provided to the prosecutor’s office.

    Dr. Anderson worked at U-M from 1968 until 2003 as a team physician in Athletics and director of the University Health Service. Five of his former patients have recently reported that he committed sexual misconduct during the 1970s until 2002.

    After the first allegation, we promptly engaged U-M police and our Office for Institutional Equity, and a police investigation began. We also hired an external firm earlier this year to conduct an independent review of the decades-old allegations.

    As part of our commitment to understanding what happened and making any needed changes to improve our processes, and after the prosecutor’s office advised us that it had completed its review, we just took the next step of reaching out to determine who else might be affected or have additional information to share. And we will provide support and counseling resources to those who were harmed.

    The patient-physician relationship involves a solemn commitment and trust. The allegations are highly disturbing.

    On behalf of the university, I apologize to anyone who was harmed by Dr. Anderson.

    Our police investigation found indications that U-M staff members were aware of rumors and allegations of misconduct during Dr. Anderson’s medical exams.

    To those who reported Dr. Anderson, and to anyone who has come forward to report sexual misconduct in any case, I express my sincere gratitude for your courage.

    Over the last several months, we have enacted a number of measures to improve culture and enhance safety. This work is ongoing, and we are committed to continuous efforts that address prevention, education and adjudication of reports. This is work that we can never consider finished.

    More than 97 percent of our employees have completed our newly required sexual misconduct training.

    We created a website devoted to education and prevention, with resources for reporting and support: sexualmisconduct.umich.edu

    Last month, we hired Tamiko Strickman, as associate vice president for institutional equity. She brings more than a decade of experience to her leadership of our Office for Institutional Equity.

    We have also conducted extensive outreach to seek feedback on our draft umbrella policy on sexual and gender-based misconduct. A single policy for all members of our community with common definitions was one of the main recommendations of the external review we commissioned and completed last year as part of our comprehensive prevention efforts.

    I thank the many community members who have participated in this policy review, including those who submitted input via our survey or as a member of one of the 75 groups that were engaged directly.  I also thank the Regents for their partnership in all of this work.

    I would also like to provide an update on the investigation concerning Martin Philbert.

    We have hired an outside, independent law firm with specific expertise in this type of work to investigate the allegations and look backwards over the full course of his career at U-M.  We want to know all the facts, and it’s critical that we ensure a thorough, fair and independent investigation that provides Dr. Philbert with due process. This will take some time.

    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 that there is wide interest in this case.

    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.

    Again, I urge everyone who may be aware of any prohibited conduct at the university to report it to the U-M Police, our Office for Institutional Equity or a confidential source such as SAPAC, the university’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center. We have a prominent button on our main website with a link to a page that provides options on how to report and resources that provide support.

    Again, we remain committed to providing support services and will work to assist and protect those who report in every way possible.