Of Rochester's sexual misconduct probe, but president to resign


Shortly before it became public today that the president of the University of Rochester (U of R) in NY will resign next month, an outside investigator hired by the school to examine its handling of sexual harassment allegations against linguistic researcher T. Florian Jaeger announced her conclusion that Jaeger did not violate university policies or sexually harass students and that accounts by his accusers are "exaggerated and misleading in many respects".

Just hours after White published her findings, the university's board of trustees announced that president Joel Seligman will resign on February 28. Or at least that's the conclusion of a report released on Thursday by a team of investigators led by Mary Jo White, the former U.S. attorney and SEC commissioner who was hired by a UR committee in September to investigate the allegations and the university's handling of them.

The university has been in turmoil since an 111-page complaint filed with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was filed against the school.

The panel found that while Professor T. Florian Jaeger's behavior, including sexual relationships with students, was offensive and unprofessional, the university was right to find he didn't violate university policy.

"Your investigation is structurally unable to get evidence from the main actors in the stories you are trying to reconstruct", the complainants' lawyer, Ann Olivarius, wrote to White in November.

A special investigator has been hired from outside the university to lead the investigation into the accusations against the university's president.

White stressed that her report evaluated sexual harassment through a legal lens.

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While the report doesn't find Jaeger's actions illegal, it does condemn his behavior as a professor from the time he was hired in 2007 through 2013. Yet, she said, her firm's conclusions are legal, not "moral" ones.

The report "admits he sent pictures of his penis to a student and a former student ... that he blurred professional boundaries with sexual banter".

White recommended a strict ban on sexual relationships between faculty and students, and urged the administration to facilitate extensive staff training on how to spot and prevent sexual harassment. (Her firm is being paid $4.5 million for its 3.5 months of work producing the report.) White, however, said the lawsuit and complaints filed with the university and EEOC, along with her interviews of other witnesses, provided enough information to render her judgment. "It is not acceptable to say that people have behaved offensively and inappropriately to our students, but nobody did anything wrong. I suffered. More than a dozen of my fellow women students suffered", Kidd said. "We don't think there's a claim there under those laws", she said.

The days ahead will involve careful review of the facts and findings and "serious decisions", they said, "guided by our commitment to ensuring that Rochester is a place of unity where all of our students, faculty, employees and visitors feel safe, respected, secure and empowered to achieve their highest potential". The faculty members plan to respond later in the day.

"The report describes Florian Jaeger", Kidd said, "as the predator I know him to be". Because of the pending legal case, they declined to participate in interviews with White's investigators.

Pollak also said he felt that White missed the point in saying that professors involved in the federal complaints were not retaliated against because their careers progressed.