University Of Rochester President Resigns After Sexual Harassment Accusations

  • University Of Rochester President Resigns After Sexual Harassment Accusations

University Of Rochester President Resigns After Sexual Harassment Accusations

A longtime professor at the University of Rochester is now interim president, and tasked with immediately helping the institution respond to a report about sexual harassment allegations and the university's subsequent response.

WIKIMEDIA, TOMWSULCEROn the heels of an investigation into sexual harassment complaints against a University of Rochester professor, the college's president, Joel Seligman, has elected to leave his post.

Seligman said he made his decision before seeing the committee's report on the case involving Professor T. Florian Jaeger that caused turmoil in the prestigious Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department.

The private western NY university's Board of Trustees appointed the committee in September to look into allegations made in complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The investigation concluded that Jaeger's conduct was "at times inappropriate, unprofessional and offensive, and may have been harmful to some students", but didn't find he did anything unlawful.

Yet numerous complainants and their lawyer, Ann Olivarius, a senior partner at the law firm McAllister Olivarius in Maidenhead, U.K., challenged the new report vigorously at a late-afternoon press conference in Rochester.

In a joint complaint, at least four Rochester students alleged that the university didn't do enough to protect them from Jaeger, noting that the professor was promoted in the midst of an investigation into his behavior. "Many of the statements and actions taken by the university were in our view not taken to retaliate ... but rather as [a] good faith effort to lessen the divisiveness within BCS", White said.

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White stressed that her report evaluated sexual harassment through a legal lens. "Although we find Jaeger's behavior inappropriate, unprofessional and offensive, the governing severe or pervasive legal standard for hostile environment harassment is a very demanding one and we do not believe, from the evidence available to us, that that standard was met". An earlier version of this article stated that U of R's policy on intimate relationships between faculty and students is as strict as Stanford's.

Last month, the group that filed the EEOC complaints followed up with a lawsuit against UR, its provost, and Seligman. "It is not acceptable to say that people have behaved offensively and inappropriately to our students, but nobody did anything wrong". It says that he's received enthusiastic support from many of his students, especially in recent years. While the lead investigator, Mary Jo White, a partner at the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton, found that the university never retaliated against whistleblowers and that Jaeger never touched anyone without consent, she tells Science she was looking only from a legal perspective, "not a moral or social judgment".

"There is no evidence of which we are aware that Jaeger ever engaged in so-called quid pro quo sexual harassment or ever had any nonconsensual sexual contact with any person", she said.

"We Trustees express our heartfelt apology to anyone who was hurt by the actions of any University employee, or who felt intimidated, excluded, or harassed", the board said in a statement to The News. Aslin and his fellow complainants did not participate in White's investigation due to the pending legal case.

"It was a very hard, and at times, wrenching, undertaking", White, who was hired by the university to independently investigate the matter, wrote in her report.

"The report describes Florian Jaeger", Kidd said, "as the predator I know him to be".