About 60 students gathered outside the home of University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel on Friday evening to show solidarity with the victims of former sports doctor Robert Anderson at a rally organized by UMich Black. Black UMich, an on-campus student organization dedicated to amplifying the voice of Blacks at University, called on the University to respond to victims’ requests and have a formal conversation about the culture of sexual assault on campus. .
The event consisted of speakers, songs expressing solidarity with the victims and a demonstration of “Black joy», An act of resistance and expression of black culture. Music by black artists was played and the protesters danced and sang together. The students chanted, “No justice, no peace. Let John speak ”,“ Black students will not be silenced ”,“ Hail to the victims ”and“ Black students are under attack. What are we doing? Get up, fight!
Jon Vaughn and other Anderson survivors have been camping outside Schlissel’s home since October 8 to protest the university’s handling of nearly 1,000 allegations of sexual assault against Anderson.
Vaughn spoke at the event, telling his story in addition to the story of college sex abuse. When Vaughn was recruited to play football for the Wolverines, he said he was told the University would prioritize his health and well-being.
“I think back to how these men walked into my living room when my mother was dying and (they) promised her that they were protecting me and that I would have the best medical care,” Vaughn said. “Obviously this was all a lie. “
Vaughn explained the actions taken by the university immediately after Tad DeLuca, a former UM wrestler, filed a formal complaint against Anderson in 1975. DeLuca, who is the first known person to report Anderson to the university , saw his scholarship and financial aid revoked. and was removed from the wrestling team after reporting Anderson’s abuse.
After DeLuca reported Anderson’s abuse to the university, the Public Safety and Security Division opened an investigation. The university then hired the law firm Steptoe & Johnson to conduct a formal investigation, but switched to WilmerHale in March 2020 due to the previous defense of Jeffrey Epstein and director Roman Polanski by Steptoe & Johnson.
“At that point, I knew we would never be treated like human beings, let alone respected as former student-athletes,” Vaughn said. “When I was recruited here you celebrated me, but now I’m a bad guy, and that’s how they have treated us ever since. “
The university has denied knowingly hiring lawyers from the same law firm that represented Epstein and Polanski.
Vaughn said conversations with current UM students, who he says continue to experience a culture of sexual violence on campus on a daily basis, have been powerful.
“The second day I was here, a young lady said to me, ‘you know, I think about the next time I’m going to be raped or sexually assaulted on this campus more than what’s going to be my middle finger,’ he said. Vaughn said. “And at that point… I realized it was worse than I thought. It’s not just that they treat us inhumanly, they treat students inhumanly. Student safety is not a priority here.
In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Senior athlete and business student Job Mayhue said he wanted the public to know what happened to Anderson survivors and hopes transparency will prevent abuse in the future.
“I want this event to lead to open and transparent conversations and culture to have tough conversations about sexual violence,” Mayhue said. “I also want the University to do more to create a safer campus and create a system where action is taken every time someone reports and it’s not just swept under the carpet.”
Mayhue also said that the University’s lack of cooperation with survivors, as well as their reluctance to speak directly to survivors and provide them with any compensation, further deters students from sharing their stories.
“They keep asking him (Jon Vaughn), ‘What can we do to get you out of our space? Mayhue said. “It’s not: what can we do to help? It’s not “What can we do to make the campus safer?” It’s, “What can we do to shut you up and get you on the right track?” “
LSA junior Zach Briggs also said the University’s lack of action and accountability regarding current MU’s deputy athletic director Paul Schmidt, who was allegedly aware of Anderson’s behavior, was disappointing.
“On every college campus in America, there are massive sexual assault scandals or mismanagement of sexual assault reports,” Briggs said. “I really think there should be some form of justice with Dr Schmidt’s dismissal, and I feel like anyone who covered it up needs to be reprimanded.”
In mid-November, Vaughn announced his intention to run for the Board of Regents in 2022. During the rally, Vaughn said he was running because of the stories he hears from students about safety and sexual assault. on the campus. He also called Schlissel directly.
“I watch a man go to work almost every day, and I’ve never seen him interact with a student or a teacher, for 42 days now, and I just think it’s an atrocity,” Vaughn said. “It really shows where the leadership is at this university. It all depends on the money, the sponsors, the donors, even the donors who let young men who have been raped under Title IX in their history enter school.
Mayhue said at the rally that black representation on the Board of Regents is key to moving forward.
“I am so grateful that you choose the Board of Regents because putting a black man in a leadership position is the first step in making tangible change for the black community and making it a safe space on campus,” Mayhue said. . to Vaughn.
Regent Katherine White (D) is currently the only black regent on the eight-member council. Vaughn said the marginalization of blacks at UM and the way the university suppressed the voices of the black community has been a historical problem.
“I might be a student athlete and I could be a victim of Dr. Anderson, but I’m a black man, and that’s something I can never be,” Vaughn said. “I am ready to fight not only for the University, but I am also here to fight for my people.”
After the speakers, Rackham student Byron Brooks recited a poem he wrote in light of how the university handled the allegations.
“How can a higher education institution hire, protect and admit known rapists? Brooks read. “I bet if Anderson was black he would have been thrown in jail and the story would have been known across the country. Hail to the victims, but as their voices fell silent the checks have always been cashed and retirement granted. The president right now won’t even leave his house like he’s on vacation. That should be enough to let you know that the rapist was a privileged Caucasian. Hello victims.
In an interview with The Daily, Brooks said he stood in solidarity with the survivors.
“That this problem has been going on for decades and generations is really sad,” Brooks said. “Although I was not a victim, I feel that it is my duty to be on the side of the victims, because it takes this solidarity to make things happen.”
Brooks said he was disheartened by the University’s lack of action and hopes it will focus more on the well-being of survivors and all students in the future.
“Honestly, I’m tired,” Brooks said. “I feel like the school is looking at things from a marketing and public relations (public relations) perspective. I am looking for real equitable actions. And not just that, but a real apology, a real apology, and some extra steps that will help you out. We are in a learning institution. We are here to learn. Many of these athletes put their bodies on the line for this institution, so they deserve some form of fair redress. “
Daily news reporter Kate Weiland can be reached at email@example.com.