Nassar victims, students join protest outside UM president's home
Ann Arbor — A sexual assault victim's demand for a meeting with University of Michigan leaders lured an army of supporters Wednesday on his sixth day of camping out on the president's front lawn.
The crowd of about 100 people spilled out from the sidewalk onto the street in the evening, alternating chants of “I am not John Doe, I am not Jane Doe” and “Hail to the Victims.”
They joined Jon Vaughn outside of UM president Mark Schlissel's residence, the largest turnout since he began picketing Friday night.
UM students, Larry Nassar victims, passers-by from Ann Arbor as well as out-of-towners showed up to support Vaughn's demand of a meeting with Schlissel and the university's board of regents. Others, Vaughn said, expressed their support remotely but were unable to show up Wednesday, including assault victims of comedian Bill Cosby.
Vaughn played football for UM in the 1989 and 1990 seasons, and alleged sexual assault by late University of Michigan sports doctor Robert Anderson, who died in 2008 and since 2020 has been the subject of 2,100 complaints to the university. He served more than 35 years as head of University Health Service and as team physician for the UM Athletic Department before retiring in 2003.
By Wednesday evening, Vaughn said no one from the administration had been in contact with him.
On Wednesday, Vaughn said a female student approached him the day before and told him she spent more time worrying about the next time she would get sexually assaulted than she did choosing a career. She told him she felt safer on the sidewalk taking part in the protest with him and other victims than she did on campus.
"That safety might be on a sidewalk right now," said Vaughn. "But our goal is to expand it to the boundaries of and beyond this university."
Carly Roo, 19, a freshman at UM, said she is a victim of sexual assault.
"Seeing that people who have power over us have this ability to assault us in this way and then see no justice taken for so long, it really makes me feel vulnerable," said Roo at the protest.
Complaints against Anderson date back almost half a century, with reports from people like Tad DeLuca, at the protest , saying Anderson's abuse extended back to 1975.
Roo and her friends, Eli Merren and Evelyn Mousigian, both 18 and freshmen, came to protest what Mousigian described as the university's prioritization of "the status quo and their reputation over helping victims and letting victims feel seen and protected."
"I think it's a little difficult to wrap your head around just the scale of things, and how long they were able to be swept under the rug," said Merren.
Several victims of another sports doctor embroiled in sexual assault, Larry Nasser, joined the gathering Wednesday to show solidarity with Vaughn and his fellow Anderson victims.
"I think people thought that us Nasser survivors went away," said Larissa Boyce, a gymnastics coach, an equine specialist and an advocate for survivors of sexual assault. "But we're still going to be here fighting strong for whoever needs help."
"They need justice, they need to be compensated for all of what they went through, what they're going through," said Boyce.
The university has been in court-supervised mediation for a year with 850 mostly male accusers of Anderson. A recorded Zoom meeting recently emerged with Schlissel saying that the Anderson litigation is a “truly enormous” liability for the university unlikely to be covered by insurance.
"We hear all of the survivors of the late Dr. Robert Anderson’s abuse and we thank them for their bravery in coming forward," said university spokesman Rick Fitzgerald on Wednesday.
"We appreciate all of the ways in which survivors have shared their very personal stories, including at tonight’s protest, during Board of Regents’ meetings, through news media reports and with the WilmerHale investigators."
The university has offered free counselling to victims.
Kaylee Lorincz, a Nasser victim and a graduate of Adrian College, echoed Boyce's expressions of solidarity, stressing its importance for victims, even those who are not ready to speak out themselves.
"I think the biggest thing we can offer is our support," said Lorincz. "I think it's so important to know that you have that support system behind you, and that you have those people behind you to fight for you."
Also at the protest were people who were not involved with Anderson, Nasser or UM, but who said they and family members experienced sexual assault that made them want to add their voices to the chants Wednesday night.
It has taken Shea Krajewski-Gardner over 30 years to come close to bringing her alleged abuser to justice, according to her parents, Debbie and Len Krajewski of Jackson.
Debbie said her daughter's case and others were coming to light because of high-profile cases like Nasser's and Anderson's.
"It has changed the climate tremendously, so people are more open to hearing it," she said. "They're starting to believe that this really can happen and does happen as much as people don't want to admit it or face it. So the more people can come together like this, the more real it becomes."
Vaughn was not the only Anderson accuser leading the chants in which the Krajewskis and other protesters joined. Chuck Christian, 61, drove 15 hours from his home in suburban Boston and arrived in Ann Arbor before dawn Wednesday morning.
He brought along air mattresses and two tents, one for himself and one for Vaughn to use instead of the tiny one in which he had been sitting since the weekend.
Christian said he was diagnosed with stage IV prostate cancer five years ago and given three years. In 2020, when he was in hospice care thinking he was about to die, he said he realized after almost 40 years that he had been sexually assaulted when his was a football player at UM.
"When this whole thing with Anderson started I said, 'Oh no, I'm not going out. I'm gonna fight.' I don't know how many years I've got, but I'm going to fight till the end."
Christian attributes his fighting spirit to being a "Michigan man" and athlete, saying it taught him to be tough.
"He's striking the match," he said of Vaughn's protest. "Now, there's a fire going. And that's what people don't understand. Nobody wants to be the one that strikes the match. Nobody wants to be the one that sacrifices. Nobody wants to be that first one."