The college’s board of trustees announced Wednesday that the University of Michigan has reached a $490 million settlement with more than 1,000 former students who allege they were sexually assaulted by a former sports doctor.
“Our most solemn responsibility to our university and community members is to support healing and the restoration of trust in an environment where safety is paramount,” the board said in a statement.
The approximately 1,050 applicants who sued the university alleging they were abused by Dr. Robert Anderson will share $490 million in damages, meaning 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 overseen by US District Court Judge Victoria Roberts.
However, the agreement still needs to be signed by the Board of Trustees and approved by 98 percent of applicants. Of the $490 million, $30 million will be reserved for future applicants who decide to participate in the fund by July 31, 2023, the university’s board said.
“Our hope is that once approved, this settlement will continue the process of healing survivors. At the same time, our work is not completed. The board and administration plan to intensify further efforts to create a campus with a positive, caring and safe culture that reflects our values as a community,” the board said in a statement. “We will strive to be free from abuse and sexual harassment, building on the work that hundreds of people in our community strive to succeed.”
Lawyers for the victims, mostly men, praised the agreement reached on Tuesday evening.
“I am proud to announce that an agreement has been reached with the 1,050 survivors of Robert Anderson and the University of Michigan,” said Parker Stinar of Wahlberg, Woodruff, Nimmo & Sloane, a Denver law firm that represents dozens of Anderson accusers. “It has been a long and difficult journey and I believe this settlement will bring justice and healing to the many brave men and women who have refused to be silenced.”
Sports physician Robert 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 as a doctor for several sports teams, including football.
He died in 2008. Since then, a number of footballers and other athletes have come forward and accused Anderson of sexually assaulting them, instigated by a former wrestler named Thad DeLuca.
A report from a firm hired by a school that ranks among the best public universities in the U.S. said staff missed many opportunities to stop Anderson in his 37-year career.
The announcement of the $490 million settlement comes just days after the university announced it was firing its president, Mark Schlissel, after learning from an anonymous complaint last month that he “may have been involved in an inappropriate relationship with an employee university.”
“On December 8, 2021, we learned from an anonymous complaint that Dr. Schlissel may have been involved in an inappropriate relationship with a university employee,” the members of the Board of Trustees said in a statement. “After investigation, we learned that Dr. Schlissel used his university email account for several years to contact this subordinate in a manner inconsistent with the dignity and reputation of the university.”
The university council named former University of Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman as interim president, adding that he “has full confidence she will provide the leadership our university community needs during this critical period of transition.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.