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University of Rochester and harassment plaintiffs reach $9.4 million settlement in lawsuit

There has been a multi-million dollar settlement in the lawsuit brought by former faculty and students at the University of Rochester over the way complaints of sexual harassment had been handled by the university.

Under the settlement, the U of R will pay the plaintiffs a total of $9.4 million.

The lawsuit was brought by nine former professors and students, accusing the university of discrimination, retaliation and defamation arising out of its handling of complaints about the alleged sexual harassment of students by Professor Florian Jaeger. A subsequent investigation commissioned by the U of R criticized Jaeger for unprofessional behavior and poor judgement but cleared him of violating school policy.

Celeste Kidd, who now is an associate professor at UC Berkeley says this settlement sets an important example for other colleges and universities.

“It sends a very important message to women in academia around the world that things are very different and times are changing and universities take this seriously in a way that they haven’t historically.” Kidd also said that, "The statement that they’ve issued says as much, and gives me confidence that women who experience these issues in their lives going forward can come forward with greater confidence that those complaints will be taken seriously.”

The U of R said in a statement that it is committed to providing a safe and inclusive environment for  students and staff, and it thanks the plaintiffs for bringing their concerns forward. The statement also says the people filing the suit helped identify opportunities for change in University policies and procedures.

The U of R also says that the willingness of its insurance carrier to pay the entire settlement amount was a factor in the decision. And the university says that no party to the settlement admitted liability or fault.

Here is the full, joint statement issued by the various parties:

The University would like to thank its former professors and students Aslin, Bixby, Brown, Cantlon, Hayden, Heilbronner, Kidd, Mahon, Newport and Piantadosi for bringing forward their concerns about sexual harassment. The University is committed to providing a safe and inclusive environment for its students, faculty, and staff and these individuals helped identify opportunities for change in University policies and procedures. The impact of the plaintiffs’ efforts has resulted in real improvement to the University processes and resource allocation for current and future prevention, investigation and remediation of situations reported to involve harassment and other forms of discrimination, as well as retaliation for reporting such matters.

Even the laws of New York have been positively impacted by the plaintiffs’ efforts. The plaintiffs appreciate and acknowledge that the University’s leaders are committed to continuing to improve the institution’s ability to prevent harassment. The parties recognize that many people in the University community, and in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences in particular, have felt caught in the middle of this dispute. The parties thank those faculty and administrators, including those in the Department, who have sought to provide support and bring the community back together. The plaintiffs have confidence the institution’s leadership team will continue efforts to achieve the University’s motto of being “ever better” in matters involving equity and inclusion.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.