In almost three days of continuous protest outside the home of the University of Michigan’s president, a survivor of the school’s sports doctor’s alleged sexual abuse said the only personnel who spoke to him were members of the president’s security detail.
“You could have come out and introduced yourself to me, as I’m sitting in front of where you go to sleep and wake up every day” said Jon Vaughn, 51, who played football for UM in the 1989 and 1990 seasons. “It’s very odd to me.”
Vaughn, who is one of the few men accusing Anderson who has revealed his identity and among the most vocal, began picketing outside UM President Mark Schlissel’s residence Friday night, and said he would not leave until Schlissel and the Board of Regents hold a meeting with him and others who have made allegations of long-term sexual assault against Dr. Robert Anderson.
“I’m not John Doe, I’m Jon Vaughn, and I’m no threat,” said Vaughn. “I just want to sit across the table and hear from you directly, not through false apologies. And so do the other survivors.”
Vaughn said on Sunday morning that he felt he hit his stride with the protest after a “critical” first two days he spent gauging how he would be able to continue safely and sustainably.
He said he planned the action for two months, working with his doctor to ensure his health would allow for the taxing demands of a picket of this kind.
“I bought a one-way ticket from Dallas when I came up here. So I’m here for the long haul.”
Anderson is the late UM sports doctor who served the university for more than 35 years as head of University Health Service and team physician for the UM Athletic Department. He retired from UM in 2003, and died in 2008. But ever since Robert Julian Stone publicly accused Anderson of sexual assault in 2020, UM has received more than 2,100 complaints.
The university has also been in mediation for one year with 850 mostly male accusers. A recorded Zoom meeting recently emerged with Schlissel saying that the Anderson litigation is a “truly enormous” liability for the university that would unlikely be covered by insurance.
UM officials have apologized, offered free counseling and said they would like to say more to the survivors who have spoken during regents meetings.
“We offer sympathy to all of the survivors of the late Dr. Robert Anderson’s abuse and we thank them for their bravery in coming forward,” said UM spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald Sunday.
“At the University of Michigan we are working every single day to make our campus safer for every member of our community and we are working toward fair compensation for the Anderson survivors through the ongoing, confidential mediation process that is supervised by a federal judge. Out of respect for that process, we have nothing further to share.”
Vaughn said last summer that he saw Anderson one on one numerous times and that he was given testicular and rectal exams but did not question the procedures at the time. Now, he said he and hundreds of others were raped.
Vaughn’s protest began three days after Schlissel announced he would leave the UM presidency one year before his contract ended.
At least one professor said Schlissel’s handling of the culture that led to the Anderson scandal, and other sexual abuse scandals at the university, contributed to some faculty members’ sentiments that it is time for new leadership at UM.
On Saturday, Vaughn was joined by Tad DeLuca, 66, who drove for about four hours from his home in Gaylord to join Vaughn.
“Jon is putting it all on the line,” said DeLuca, before joking about the small tent Jon was using to shield himself from the weekend rain. “He’s going to live in that — my wife called it that little solar cooker.”
He said he knew Vaughn had back problems that may be exacerbated by his planned long-term protest, and pointed to that as a testament to Vaughn’s dedication.
“I had to be there to support him” he said. “I mean, I’m in awe of the man. He has become more and more articulate and more and more powerful.”
DeLuca is another of Anderson’s identified accusers, who said that when he went to the doctor for help with a recurring dislocated shoulder when he was on the school’s wrestling team, the doctor subjected him to at least four prostate exams by the time he was 18.
The two men, DeLuca and Vaughn, first met outside the state capitol in September 2020 when they both spoke about their experiences.
DeLuca wrote a letter to UM in 1975 to alert them of his alleged abuse after his wrestling scholarship was revoked, and another in 2018 which contributed to the now avalanche of complaints against the deceased doctor.
He said the school reinstated his scholarship after the first letter he sent, but that it did not take action against Anderson or a wrestling coach who stripped him of the scholarship and failed to help him when he was informed of the abuse.
“There’s a lot to hide,” said DeLuca, who said that if the meeting Vaughn was demanding came to light, and he were invited, he would want a seat at the table. “There are guilty people all over that place.”
He, like Vaughn, said his hope out of the meeting was not an apology, but accountability.
“What I want them to say is, ‘we acknowledge we messed up. We messed up for a long time. We were wrong. We did something very, very horrible. We changed people’s lives. We hurt people.’ … To me, that would be the biggest thing I’d ever want to see.”
UM Board Chair Jordan Acker could not be immediately reached for comment.
But at the end of the board meeting in September, he said: “[O]ut of respect for the court and the orders governing the confidential meeting process, we are limited in what we can say. What I will say, on behalf of my colleagues on the board, is that we are committed to becoming a campus that is free of sexual violence, abuse, and harassment.”
“As you heard the President outline at the beginning of this meeting — we have put measures in place that will help us continue along that path. To all who are speaking out — we hear you and we value you.”
Vaughn was also joined Saturday by Trinea Gonczar, one of the women who took down Larry Nassar — the now-incarcerated, former Michigan State University sports doctor who sexually abused female athletes.
Gonczar said she joined Vaughn at UM and wore a mask to represent all the voiceless victims who could not be there, and also because no victim should ever stand alone.
“I’m so proud of him,” said Gonczar, “and glad to stand in solidarity.”