Interim president at University of Rochester has immediate task

Cheryl Sanders
January 14, 2018

The University of Rochester professor at the center of a sexual misconduct complaint that led the university president to resign apologized Friday to his students and colleagues for the disruption it caused. Although the investigation cleared Seligman of wrongdoing-and also exonerated the accused, brain science professor Florian Jaeger, of violating university policies-critics praised his departure.

Eight faculty members and a graduate student past year filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, saying the university mishandled complaints against Jaeger and retaliated against them for bringing the professor's behavior to light.

A University of Rochester professor had multiple sexual relationships with former, current, or prospective students and engaged in "inappropriate, unprofessional and offensive" behavior with colleagues and graduate students over a six-year period ending in 2013-but none of it violated the university's policies.

Attorney Ann Olivarius, who represents the complainants, calls the report incomplete and inaccurate. The investigator has stated that the accusations against Jaeger are wildly "exaggerated and misleading in many respects" as well as coming to the conclusion that the president did not sexually harass university students and that the accusations are false and misleading. "It is not acceptable to say people have behaved offensively and inappropriately to our students, but nobody did anything wrong". "Here we are in a situation in which she says students suffered experiences they never should have had to endure", said former department chair Elissa Newport, one of the complainants.

"Set the bar, and set it high", she said. He also prompted campus protests for initially comparing the allegations against Jaeger to those of rape made against the University of Virginia and one of its fraternities in a now-discredited Rolling Stone article.

"As we as a community begin to consider this report, 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", a statement said.

The board of trustees said it had "many serious decisions to make in the days ahead". Seligman's departure is only further "confirmation that our actions were justified", he said. Because of the pending legal case, they declined to participate in interviews with White's investigators. He first came to campus in 1975 as an assistant professor of philosophy.

White's 213-page final report, now available online, largely vindicates the university's initial 2016 investigation, concluding that it had acted in "good faith, impartially, professionally", and in accordance with its own policies.

Nevertheless, he said, the divisiveness created by a semester-long independent investigation of the University's handling of allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation involving a faculty member has made him recognize the need for a new leader for Rochester.

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