UR announces new investigation into harassment complaint; professor put on leave

Sep 19, 2017

Credit university of rochester

There are new developments in the ongoing controversy involving the handling of sexual harassment accusations against a professor at the University of Rochester.

The University's Board of Trustees says it has appointed a special committee to oversee an independent, comprehensive investigation into all matters involving the sexual harassment complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against the University.

The Committee will also review the University’s processes and procedures related to addressing claims of sexual abuse and harassment. Officials say this committee’s work will come to a conclusion, irrespective of  any decision handed by the by the EEOC or any other parties that pursue claims.

An attorney for seven current and former faculty members and a graduate student says they are preparing for a federal court fight, claiming administrators mishandled allegations against Professor Florian Jaeger.

The University, with agreement from Jaeger, has put him on administrative leave pending the outcome of the Special Committee’s investigation.

In a statement, Board of Trustees Chairman Danny Wegman stated, “This is a matter of utmost importance to the entire University community, and the Special Committee will conduct its investigation with complete independence, with access to all relevant information, and receive total cooperation from the University.”

University President Joel Seligman added, “I welcome this independent investigation by the Board and assure the complete cooperation of the University and its staff. Students, faculty, staff, alumni and the public deserve a full and transparent accounting on this matter.”

The President of the University of Rochester Student Association Jordan Smith is speaking out on professor Florian Jaeger being put on administrative leave.

"We really believe it’s an important step to ensure that students feel safe and comfortable here in the wake of recent events," Smith told WXXI News.

Smith says the association is relieved by the decision, and that they hope the campus can grow from this and work on stronger policies dealing with sexual misconduct.

The SA president says the association will also be taking steps to address the campus climate.

"There’s a lot of hurt and a lot of distrust and definitely a lot of sadness on the part of students and faculty and alumni alike."

The Special Committee's goal is to complete the investigation by December 31, 2017, and according to a statement, "once the investigation is completed, the findings will promptly be reported to the Board and made public to the University community."

The committee will be chaired by Richard Handler and its members will initially consist of trustees Nomi Bergman, John Davidson, Lance Drummond and Lizette Pérez-Deisboeck

The statement from the university trustees also says that, "The Special Committee has today retained Mary Jo White, Senior Chair of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, to lead the investigation. Ms. White, who has served as both Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, has decades of investigative experience. Ms. White and her team have conducted numerous independent investigations involving sexual abuse and harassment at educational and other institutions."