ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Former University of Michigan students say a prominent Rock ‘n’ Roll professor sexually abused them.
A civil lawsuit has been filed on behalf of the students. The lecturer, Bruce Conforth, resigned in 2017 after he admitted to allegations of sexual misconduct that were made against him.
One of the former students said she was sexually assaulted in Conforth’s office during school hours. Another former student said she was the first to come forward to the university, but her complaints were ignored.
“He broke me down through encrypted aliases, increasingly requiring that I report anything I did with outside friends, scorning me for it, and then requiring that I service Bruce sexually as a way to redeem myself. I grew scared, fearful to take missteps. I came to the university to learn and grow and instead one of the most popular professors used his knowledge, authenticated and raved about by the university, to stunt my growth, violate my body and to ruin my life out of jealousy,” Isabelle Brourman said.
The students say his celebrity-like persona allowed him to groom students.
Brourman said Conforth told her he was part of the Illuminati and as the abuse escalated, he sexually assaulted her in his campus office.
“I had to tell him that I loved him and show him I loved him in order to survive,” Brourman said.
Years before Brourman was assaulted, another former student, said she was aggressively propositioned by Conforth. Katherine McMahan said when she came forward her complaint was ignored.
“I did what I was supposed to do, what the university told me to do. I followed the rules and they didn’t do anything,” Katherine McMahan said. “But the university swept this under the rug. They turned a blind eye, and in doing so, enabled and rewarded his deplorable behavior, essentially giving him permission to keep going and he did -- and his actions escalated.”
There are eight former students involved in the civil lawsuit.
“We went from representing one, then two, then six -- now eight woman have come forward just because of the strength in numbers and the strength that they gain from each other and most importantly, knowing that they are not alone,” attorney Nolan Erickson said.
University of Michigan releases official statement:
The spokesperson for University of Michigan, Rick Fitzgerald, released the following statement. Fitzgerald is the Associate Vice President for Public Affairs.
“Bruce Conforth was a former lecturer in American Culture who’s U-M employment ended in 2017.
Mr. Conforth admitted to allegations of sexual misconduct that were made and a separation agreement outlined his permanent removal from the university, no contact with students and other requirements. The university was prepared to initiate dismissal proceedings had he not first resigned.
Mr. Conforth was covered by a collective bargaining agreement that includes a several-step process before an employee can be dismissed. Any employee may resign before that process is complete. The university, or any employer, does not need to agree for an employee to resign. It is important to note in this situation that Mr. Conforth was not offered anything (compensation, benefits, etc.) in exchange for his resignation.
The university took the necessary actions, outlined in a separation agreement, to permanently remove Mr. Conforth from the university community and restrict him from any further contact with students.
The university continues to take extraordinary measures to put critical protections in place for students and all members of our community on top of earlier protections. We continue to work with the nationally recognized consulting firm of Guidepost Solutions on additional measures.
We have added new policies that prohibit teacher-learner romantic relationships, that prohibit supervisor-supervisee relationships and strengthened our policy against any type of retaliation. And are developing a cultural change process that was outlined last summer.
We are in the process of adding significant staff to the newly formed Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office, that will increase our prevention and education efforts while freeing up resources to focus sharply on investigating allegations of misconduct when they occur.”