DETROIT (AP) — Sexual assault victims sued the University of Michigan on Thursday over a policy that limits the number of people who can offer public comment at meetings of the school’s governing board.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of people who said they were molested by Dr. Robert Anderson during his decades as a campus physician. They said they were denied an opportunity to address the Board of Regents in July, in violation of Michigan’s open meetings law.
The university caps the number of speakers and limits the number of people who can talk about a specific topic at five.
Regents have been meeting by video conference during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2017, The number of speakers was increased to as many as 17, under certain conditions, from 10.
Five people who said they were assaulted by Anderson spoke in July, spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said.
Regents have the “authority to establish rules by which members of the public may address a meeting of the board, and the process in place at U-M is consistent with those at other Michigan public universities,” Fitzgerald said.
Hundreds of men say they were molested by Anderson while he served for decades as a university doctor. The university has acknowledged that assaults occurred and is in mediation to settle lawsuits. Anderson died in 2008.
Attorney Parker Stinar said it’s “traumatizing” to deny any victim an opportunity to speak at a public meeting.
“They were powerless against their abuser and now they feel powerless against the university,” Stinar said.
A report commissioned by the university found that officials were aware of allegations against Anderson, especially in the 1970s, but failed to act.