A University of Michigan student filed a class action lawsuit against the institution Thursday, alleging that administrators have repeatedly failed to protect students from sexual misconduct. The lawsuit asks that a federal court order the university to implement a plan to prevent misconduct and assign an independent monitor to track its progress.
The lawsuit, filed in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan by Josephine Graham, a junior at Michigan, accuses university officials of violating Title IX, the law that prohibits sex discrimination at federally funded institutions. The allegations are based on two recent investigative reports conducted by a law firm and published by the university that detail decades of sexual assault by Robert Anderson, a former doctor who molested hundreds of students, and sexual harassment by Martin Philbert, a former provost who had inappropriate sexual relationships with employees and graduate students.
The report about Anderson published last week found that university officials knew about Anderson’s abuse as early as 1978, yet he continued to work at the institution until 2003, according to a press release. Officials were also notified of Philbert’s misconduct, but a university investigation was not launched.
Graham’s lawsuit says, “It is clear that U of M continues to lack appropriate and sufficient policies and procedures to prevent sexual violence on campus, and fails to adequately enforce those policies and procedures.”
UPDATE: Kim Broekhuizen, a spokesperson for the university, said in an emailed statement that officials "consider this new lawsuit to be completely lacking in any basis for legal action." Broekhuizen noted "dozens of policies and practices" the university has implemented since Anderson's tenure, incuding rules against student-professor relationships, criminal background checks for new employees, and offering chaperones for University of Michigan health patients during "sensitive examinations."
"The University has offered its heartfelt apology for the abuse perpetrated by the late Robert Anderson," Broekhuizen wrote. "Many members of our community are now a part of the formal effort to improve the culture of the institution even further as it relates to sexual and gender-based misconduct through a process that engages the community in the co-creation of change, across all entities on our campuses."