The University of Michigan has agreed to a $490 million settlement with more than 1,000 former students who said a former sports doctor Robert Anderson sexually assaulted them during his almost four-decade career at the school, their lawyers confirmed on Wednesday.
The announcement came after 15 months of mediation on what appears to be one of the nation’s biggest sex abuse scandals, which involves mostly males and several generations of victims going back to the ’60s.
The mediation led to a deal specifying that 1,050 victims would be sharing the financial settlement.
Individuals and their attorneys will determine how to split the $460 million, with no input from the university, the school said in a statement.
$30 million will be set aside for any future accusers.
“We hope this settlement will begin the healing process for survivors,” said Jordan Acker, chair of the University of Michigan Board of Regents. “At the same time, the work that had begun two years ago, when the first brave survivors came forward, will continue.”
Mary Sue Coleman, University of Michigan’s President, agreed that the settlement is “the right thing to do.” According to the University, it still needs to be sign-off on by the Board of Regents and approved by 98 percent of the claimants.
“This agreement is a critical step among many the university has taken to improve support for survivors and more effectively prevent and address misconduct,” she said.
Attorney Parker Stinar said the settlement was reached Tuesday night with the help of court-appointed mediator Robert F. Riley and overseen by U.S. District Court Judge Victoria A. Roberts for the Eastern District of Michigan.
The university had been in mediation to resolve multiple lawsuits by mostly men who said Dr. Robert Anderson sexually abused them during routine medical examinations.
“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,” said Stinar, who represents about 200 victims.
Tad DeLuca, the whistleblower whose letter to Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel alleging sexual assault sparked an investigation into Anderson, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that he found no joy in the settlement and worries that it will leave deeper issues unaddressed.
“The settlement is going to gloss things over so Michigan can go back to having a glossy block `M’ and look wonderful for the world,” DeLuca said, referring to the university’s logo. “But the situation on campus is horrible.”
Anderson retired in 2003 and died five years later. He was a former director of the University Health Service who also served as the top physician for Michigan football teams led by coaches Bo Schembechler and Lloyd Carr.
In 1969, Schembechler son, Matt, alleged that Anderson molested him at age ten and that his father refused to believe him. He said his mother, Millie, tried to get Anderson fired, but Schembechler had him reinstated.
A report by a firm hired by the school determined that staff missed many opportunities to stop Anderson over his 37-year career.