Class-Action Suit Adds to Michigan's Anderson Fallout | Athletic Business

Class-Action Suit Adds to Michigan's Anderson Fallout

University of Michigan officials violated federal law by putting students at increased risk of sexual assault, harassment and emotional trauma in the wake of a molestation scandal involving former university physician Robert Anderson, according to a federal class-action lawsuit filed Thursday.

As reported by The Detroit NewsUM junior Josephine Graham filed the lawsuit and demanded that the university implement policies and procedures to prevent and respond to sexual violence on campus. Those policies could include a court-appointed watchdog to oversee reforms such as background checks for new doctors, training for employees about how to identify sexual assault and a tracking system to handle sexual assault reports, according to the lawsuit.

Anderson, who died in 2008, served as head of University Health Service, and later as a team physician for the Michigan athletic department. He has been accused of molesting more than 800 men during his tenure at the school from 1966 to 2003.

The class-action lawsuit was filed one week after a university-commissioned report concluded that officials did not heed "credible reports" of abuse by Anderson.

"U of M’s failure to have or enforce appropriate policies and procedures to prevent sexual violence on campus creates an environment in which current (and future) students face a real, immediate, and direct threat of sexual violence," Graham's lawyer, E. Powell Miller, wrote in the lawsuit.

In an email to The Detroit News on Thursday, university spokeswoman Kim Broekhuizen said: "While the University takes all concerns and reports of sexual abuse or misconduct seriously, we consider this new lawsuit to be completely lacking in any basis for legal action." 

Broekhuizen said Michigan has since instituted policies and practices including developing a misconduct policy, implementing policy to prohibit sexual, romantic, amorous and/or dating relationships between teachers and learners; requiring one-time sexual misconduct training for all employees; mandating additional scrutiny of personnel records as tenure and promotion decisions are considered; and conducting criminal background checks for all new university employees, faculty and staff. 

Graham wants a federal judge to order UM to implement and enforce policies and procedures designed to prevent and respond to sexual violence.

Those solutions could include:

• Instituting a policy that requires university officials to report incidents of student sexual assault to authorities.

• Requiring the university's board of regents to implement background checks for all new hires, including physicians who interact with patients.

• Verifying the credentials of all clinical personnel annually.

• Creating a system to allow for anonymous patient feedback.

• Providing students with information about how to recognize and report sexual harassment and gender-based violence by healthcare providers.

• Appointing an independent watchdog to oversee reforms and provide regular reports to the court.

Graham's lawsuit adds to a list of dozens related to the Anderson scandal that have been filed against the university since 2000.

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