Ex-Michigan students accuse professor of sexual misconduct

Jan 31, 2022, 5:45 PM | Updated: 5:56 pm

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Students of a former University of Michigan lecturer recounted stories of alleged sexual assault, psychological torture and university negligence Monday before filing a lawsuit against the professor and the school.

On a Zoom call with reporters, the two former students described Bruce Conforth, a musician who taught in the American Culture department, as the “cool professor” who talked about playing music with various rock stars. They said Conforth would meet up with students at bars and advised them to follow their dreams, and that students felt lucky to take his class.

The Associated Press doesn’t usually name accusers of sexual assault but the women spoke publicly about their experiences.

Conforth did not respond to a message left by the AP on his website.

Isabelle Brourman, who alleges Conforth repeatedly raped her over the course of four years, said students knew the only way to get off the waitlist for his class was to have a personal encounter with him.

Brourman said she and Conforth met several times, during which he instilled fear in Brourman by saying he was in the Illuminati, a purported secret society, and threatening that there would be grave consequences if she did not sexually service him. In the summer of 2014, she said she was getting hourly emails from Conforth and encrypted email addresses from supposed members of the group threatening violence.

“He managed to secure a world around me so that he was the only one I could turn to,” Brourman said. “I was told that if I spoke of what I had read in these emails, that hell would be so sweet a punishment.”

The lawsuit filed Monday in Washtenaw County on behalf of eight women alleges years of sexual harassment and assault dating back to 2004. It also says that the university knew or should have known about the abuse and ignored it. The lawsuit seeks damages and names the university, its regents and Conforth as defendants.

Conforth was a lecturer at the university from 2001 to 2017, when he admitted to allegations of sexual misconduct and was permitted to resign by the university as part of a collective bargaining agreement, university spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said.

The lawsuit follows the university’s recent announcement of a $490 million settlement with over 1,000 people who say the late doctor Robert Anderson sexually assaulted them over the course of his decadeslong career at the school. Mark Schlissel was removed earlier this month as university president after emails detailing an alleged inappropriate sexual relationship between him and a subordinate were discovered.

Former student Katherine McMahan said on the Zoom call that in 2008 she warned the university about Conforth after he had pressured her to come home with him, grabbing her waist at a bar after a blues concert. She did not go home with him and filed a complaint with the university after she graduated.

McMahan said the person handling her complaint said Conforth corroborated her accusations and the university was taking all the necessary steps to ensure it wouldn’t happen again.

“But Bruce was allowed to stay to keep teaching. So what happened to me must not have been that bad,” McMahan said. “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.”

Brourman, who said her abuse came years after McMahan’s report, said that if the university doesn’t get serious about tackling the problem of sexual violence, it “will continue to rot from the inside out.”


Anna Liz Nichols is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump arrives during the second day of th...

Associated Press

Donald Trump celebrated by former rivals at Republican National Convention

Former president Donald Trump was celebrated at the Republican National Convention by former rivals, including Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis.

5 hours ago

FILE - Members of the Henderson Fire Department load Deb Billet, 66, into an ambulance before trans...

Associated Press

Things to know about heat deaths as a dangerously hot summer shapes up in the western US

A dangerously hot summer is shaping up in the U.S. West, with heat suspected in dozens of recent deaths.

4 days ago

FILE - Dr. Ruth Westheimer participates in the "Ask Dr. Ruth" panel during the Hulu presentation at...

Associated Press

Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the sex therapist who became a pop icon, has died

Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the sex therapist who became a pop icon, media star and best-selling author, has died.

4 days ago

Biden proposes rule to protect 36 million workers from extreme heat...

Associated Press

Biden proposes new rule to protect 36 million workers from extreme heat

President Joe Biden on Tuesday proposed a new rule to address excessive heat in the workplace, warning — as tens of millions of people in the U.S. are under heat advisories — that high temperatures are the country's leading weather-related killer.

14 days ago

FILE - Rori Chang, of Glendale, Ariz., walks with her dog Ava as they leave the Maricopa Country An...

Associated Press

Here are ways that can help ease dogs’ July Fourth dread

Those with furry, four-legged family members will be searching for solutions to the Fourth of July anxiety that fireworks bring.

15 days ago

FILE - Rori Chang, of Glendale, Ariz., walks with her dog Ava as they leave the Maricopa Country An...

Sponsored Content by

Those with furry, four-legged family members will be searching for solutions to the Fourth of July anxiety that fireworks bring.

Sponsored Articles


Sanderson Ford

3 storylines to get you revved up for the 2024 Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals training camp is just a couple weeks away starting on July 25, and Sanderson Ford is revved up and ready to go.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Beat the heat, ensure your AC unit is summer-ready

With temperatures starting to rise across the Valley, now is a great time to be sure your AC unit is ready to withstand the sweltering summer heat.



Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.

Ex-Michigan students accuse professor of sexual misconduct