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Univ. of Michigan addresses sexual misconduct amid protests and lawsuit

by Ezekiel J. Walker
Univ. of Michigan addresses sexual misconduct amid protests and lawsuit

Collegiate sports and academic powerhouse, the University of Michigan has reached an agreement to settle a lawsuit brought by students seeking to change how campus sexual misconduct matters are handled.

Though current students filed suit, this was a fight for U-M students of all generations. For 150 days, 52-year-old former Michigan football player Jonathan Vaughn camped-in-protest outside of the President’s House while having one-on-one conversations with anyone who would listen about the historic patterns of sexual misconduct at Univ. of Michigan.

Two weeks ago, the University of Michigan abruptly removed Vaughn’s campsite. Though now removed, Vaughn’s message didn’t go unheard.

Sexual misconduct and Univ. of Michigan are synonymous.

On Jan. 19, the University settled with over 1,000 survivors of the late athletic doctor Robert Anderson in the sum of $490 million. Anderson was employed by the Michigan Wolverines from 1968 – 2003. The settlement was widely reported to contain a clause requiring Vaughn to end his protest outside of the President’s House.

As part of the separate federally filed class-action suit brought by Josephine Graham, a University of Michigan senior,  the school will create and pay for a multidisciplinary standing committee designed to protect the university community from and prevent sexual abuse.

The Coordinated Community Response Team will be comprised of about 30 members, including Title IX and campus sexual misconduct experts, community members, and select members of the administration and faculty. The measure still requires the approval of U.S. District Court Judge Victoria Roberts. Both agreements were reached under the supervision of a court-appointed mediator.

A history marred in scandals.

In addition to Anderson, Mark Schlissel was removed earlier this year as university president after emails detailing an alleged inappropriate sexual relationship between him and a subordinate were discovered. And the university paid $9.25 million to eight women who reported emotional or sexual abuse by Martin Philbert, who over 25 years ascended from professor to provost, Michigan’s senior academic official. He was removed in 2020.

For decades the University of Michigan facilitated a culture of sexual misconduct exploited by professors, physicians, and Presidents. Its students are safer today – not out of the University’s own vilition or progressive changes made over time – but because its own students came together and fought back.

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