The University of Michigan announced a $490 million settlement Wednesday with more than 1,000 people who say they were sexually assaulted by a sports doctor during his nearly four-decade career at the school.
The university said 1,050 people will share in the financial settlement, the latest in several large payouts made by American universities following accusations of repeated sexual abuse by employees.
Individuals and their attorneys will determine how to split $460 million, with no input from the university, the school said in a statement. An additional $30 million will be set aside for future claims.
Board of Regents Chair Jordan Acker told reporters that the agreement will resolve all survivor claims.
“We must support healing and restoration of trust in an environment where safety is paramount,” Acker said. “This agreement is an important step in that direction.”
Attorney Parker Stinar said the settlement was reached Tuesday night. 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 is 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 worked at the university from 1966 until his 2003 retirement and was director of the university’s Health Service and a physician for multiple athletic teams, including football. A number of football players and other athletes have come forward to accuse Anderson, who died in 2008, of sexually abusing them.
A report by a firm hired by the school determined that staff missed many opportunities to stop Anderson over his 37-year career. The university regularly is ranked among the top public universities in the U.S.
The settlement has to be approved by the board which is expected to vote at its February meeting, Acker said. It also has to be approved by 98% of claimants and the court overseeing the suits.
The deal came roughly two weeks after a state senator announced new bipartisan legislation that would retroactively give the accusers a 30-day window to sue the school for damages regardless of legal time limits and bar the university from using the government immunity defense. The bills, which were poised for introduction this week, were promoted as a way to provide the victims more certainty and increase pressure on the school for a resolution.
Early this week, two men who say they were sexually assaulted by Anderson also said they were hoping that a change in leadership with the weekend firing of university President Mark Schlissel would allow the school to be more accountable toward abuse victims.
Keith Moree and Robert Stone told reporters Tuesday that the Ann Arbor school is ripe for a culture change as its board conducts a search to permanently replace Schlissel, who was removed Saturday due to an alleged “inappropriate relationship with a university employee.”
University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said Schlissel’s firing “had no impact on the mediation effort in this matter.”
The settlement with Anderson’s victims is one of several agreed to by universities following sex abuse scandals. They include Michigan State University’s agreement to pay $500 million to settle claims from more than 300 women and girls who said they were assaulted by Larry Nassar, who was a campus sports doctor and a doctor for USA Gymnastics.
That settlement, announced in May 2018, was considered the largest at the time, far surpassing the $100 million-plus that Penn State University has paid to settle claims by at least 35 people who accused assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky of sexual abuse.
Last year, the University of Southern California agreed to an $852 million settlement with more than 700 women who have accused the college’s longtime campus gynecologist, Dr. George Tyndall, of sexual abuse.