Readers of this blog will know where I stand on the “scandal” already tarnishing the memory of one of Michigan’s greats, former coach and athletic director Glenn E “Bo” Schembechler (1). At issue is whether his thorough and systematic team doctor, Robert Anderson, through his regular exams of rectums and testicles of players committed some sort of systematic sexual assault, Bo complicit and guilty by “doing nothing” despite hearing complaints from his players. Already they’ve purged any mention of him from the big scoreboard videos at each football game (2).
Both Bo and Dr. Anderson are dead, Bo passing on the eve of the Ohio State game in 2006 with Dr. Anderson following him 2 years and less than a week later. Many in this town still love and revere Bo, and all I’ve talked to are incensed at the treatment he’s been getting. When his report by the “Historical Commission” goes up for public commentary, I expect an avalanche of a backlash.
What can any single “Michigan Man” do? Besides sharing my views with friends, I’ve done nothing public till now. But a story on the front page of last Wednesday’s Michigan Daily tipped me over (3). The Daily, tho’ ”just” a student newspaper, is a venerable local institution, published since 1890 and counting among its editor alumni such as playwright Arthur Miller, near-President Thomas Dewey, and Mr. Jane Fonda Tom Hayden. The annual release of the DPSS (Division of Public Safety and Security) stats provides a snapshot of on-campus security. Anything happening to a student that feels like a crime can be reported, and is recorded on the date of reporting, not when the offense occurred. This year, Dr. Anderson’s transgressions from the 60s through the early aughts drowned everything out. Of 1212 rapes reported in 2020, 1,194 were ascribed to Dr. Anderson. Similarly 916 0f the 947 cases of fondling came from Dr. A. The University is expecting hundreds of millions of dollars in claims, higher if individuals choose to sue rather than taking the group settlement the University is pursuing. Outgoing President Schlissel recognizes the enormous potential liability, but won’t give numbers (4). The University, with an endowment of $12.48 billion (2020), an annual budget of $9.88 billion (2018), and over $2.1 billion projected for the 2022 general fund, isn’t going to go broke, but there might be a few less crumbs left for DEI and such.
Things are probably way too far gone for any medical common sense to have much of an effect, but I decided to take a stab and write Ms Hao, editor of the Daily. Here’s what I sent her (references added for this blog):
“To the editor:
Since the first release of U-M’s report into complaints about the late Dr. Robert Anderson (5), reactions to his performing of what were then standard practices on male physical exams have grown into a hysteria that threatens to take down the Michigan icons who supervised him – Bo Schembechler and Don Canham – not to mention draw significantly on the coffers of our University. Dr. Anderson, a ’53 grad of our med school, received accolades for his proposals that sports physicals be taken as an opportunity to screen for health problems of young men who otherwise rarely visit doctors. Such encounters would include visits to the sensitive nether regions where testicles – potentially harboring the cancer most likely to kill young men – along with deformities (hydroceles) possibly leading to later infertility – and the rectum – where many illnesses might leave a trace. Modern medicine, where doctors’ hands spend more time on keyboards than on patients, has found different ways to assess pathologies from these areas, but from the 50s through the 90s doctors’ hands were supposed to go there. We in the residency program of the prestigious Barnes Hospital (St. Louis) during the early 80s were admonished when we failed to do a rectal exam on a new patient. Our physical exam bible – Degowin and Degowin – describes the testicular exam thusly (trigger warning: graphic!) (6).
‘Compare both testes simultaneously by grasping one with one hand, using thumb and forefinger. Determine their size, shape, consistency, and sensitivity to pressure. Even though they feel normal, transilluminate each; one may be atrophied and the normal size attained by a hydrocele.’
No one’s complained yet about Doc A. taking a flashlight to them.
While such an approach by an older man wearing rubber gloves might seem off-putting, to call this “rape” or even “sexual assault” degrades both these terms. Bo’s response to any player complaining about such an exam to “toughen up” seem about right, particularly considering that Bo himself likely had endured many such exams.
I am not defending Dr. Anderson. His reported antics at Detroit selective service exams are reprehensible (7). That as a closeted homosexual he took pleasure in these exams is more than distasteful. But what he did with these athletes was standard practice for the day and may have even benefited several. Everybody involved with this case needs to heed Bo and “toughen up”, not fill the UPSS blotter with so many entries as to blot out ongoing sexual misconduct statistics.
Ms Hao has not yet responded. But it’s been less than a day. I don’t know if courtesy of a reply goes to all supplicants. She may have had to run to a safe space after reading it. I’m not expecting to add a Michigan Daily contribution to my CV, but wouldn’t that be great? Thanks to you all for taking it in on this forum.
Robert W. Ike, M.D.
Emeritus Associate Professor
Department of Internal of Medicine
Division of Rheumatology
University of Michigan Health System”
1. Ike B. Et tu, Bo? Posted June 11, 2021. https://wordpress.com/post/theviewfromharbal.com/1611
2. Ike B. Down the hole, Bo. Posted September 12, 2021. https://wordpress.com/post/theviewfromharbal.com/1915
3. Coletti D. DPSS report logs over 2,000 crimes by Anderson. Michigan Daily CXX (54):1. October 13, 2021. https://issuu.com/michigandaily/docs/2021-10-13
4. Kozloski K. UM president admits Robert Anderson litigation is “enormous” liability for university. Detroit News September 30, 2021. https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan/2021/09/30/um-president-admits-anderson-litigation-enormous-liability-university/5881713001/
5. Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLC. May 11, 2021. Report of Independent Investigation: Allegations of Sexual Misconduct Against Robert E. Anderson. https://regents.umich.edu/files/meetings/01-01/WH_Anderson_Report.pdf
6. Bedside Diagnostic Examination 3rd edition, EL DeGowin and RL DeGowin, 1976. Macmillan, New York NY. ISBN 0-02-328050-6. p. 593.