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University of Rochester president resigns after controversial handling of sexual harassment complaint

13 January 2018

"I would have to say that President Seligman's resignation is some vindication that what we were doing (raising the complaints) is right", Richard Aslin, a University of Rochester researcher who sued Seligman and the institution for improperly investigating Jaeger and retaliating against those who complained, tells the Democrat & Chronicle.

After the report was released, University of Rochester president Joel Seligman announced that he had chose to resign.

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.

White was hired by a special committee constituted in September 2017 by the university's Board of Trustees to investigate the original complaints made to the university in 2013 and 2016 and with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in August 2017 against Jaeger, how the university investigated them, and whether complainants experienced retribution from university officials. 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.

Attorney Ann Olivarius, who represents the complainants, calls the report incomplete and inaccurate.

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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.

"It was a terrifying experience to complain about sexual harassment at the University of Rochester", Cantlon said.

Research professor Florian Jaeger made national headlines past year after allegations arose that he had harassed and engaged in sexual relationships with his students.

She listed several recommendations, including prohibiting intimate relationships between faculty and students in the same department.

"I think Professor Jaeger paid attention to what those policies allow and did not allow", White said at a press conference on Thursday, where she emphasized that legally, she did not believe his actions met the definition of sexual harassment.

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"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. They noted, among other things, that the report repeatedly describes Jaeger's actions as "inappropriate" and "offensive" and that it conceded that because of this, some women "actively avoided pursuing academic opportunities with Jaeger".

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

The report praised former graduate student Keturah Bixby for coming forward to report Jaeger to her department chair in 2013 (a separate report was brought by faculty members in 2016, resulting in an internal investigation that cleared Jaeger of serious misconduct).

White and her team's report also found no evidence that the university retaliated against the complainants. But it did recommended that UR clarify and expand its procedures for dealing with sexual harassment by faculty members.

Last month, the group that filed the EEOC complaints followed up with a lawsuit against UR, its provost, and Seligman. "Promising a comprehensive investigation when you know it can not be comprehensive strikes me as fundamentally fraudulent". "It is not acceptable to say that people have behaved offensively and inappropriately to our students, but nobody did anything wrong".

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University of Rochester president resigns after controversial handling of sexual harassment complaint