The Interim President of the University of Rochester is sounding positive about changes the university has been making and will make in the future after the controversy that has hit UR over the last several months.
Richard Feldman who took over after Joel Seligman resigned in February.
Feldman has been in the post for just over a month now, and he says the university has been taking multiple steps to address concerns that arose partly due to the sexual harassment allegations raised last year against Florian Jaeger, a professor in the Brain and Cognitive Sciences department.
Those allegations turned into a lawsuit by some current and former grad students and faculty, and resulted in a report released in January by an outside consultant, Mary Jo White.
That report did not find any evidence that Jaeger violated university policy, but said that earlier in his career at UR, his behavior was inappropriate.
Feldman says the university has already made progress on a number of White’s recommendations. And he says among the areas UR is looking at is having a more stringent policy regarding relationships between staff and students.
“The general idea is we want to prohibit intimate relations between faculty members and anyone over whom they have academic authority; but we need to define academic authority in a clear way so that people can understand exactly what that implies,” Feldman told WXXI News.
Feldman says UR recently came up with a new statement of vision and values, to serve as a foundation for other policies. He says they are also in the process of establishing a new office of diversity and inclusion.
The report released by consultant Mary Jo White earlier this year did set out deadlines for the university to take some actions, but Feldman says not all of those recommendations will be met on time.
“I’m much more interested in doing the right thing and acting collaboratively, adopting policies and programs that will be effective for the whole university than I am I acting by a particular date.”
Feldman says the university is also looking at going beyond some of the recommendations made by Mary Jo White, including establishing that office of diversity and inclusion that will have a broader scope than was suggested in the consultant's report.
Despite all of the negative publicity about the controversy at the university over the last year, Feldman says UR has been doing well on a number of fronts.
“Undergraduate admissions applications are up over 10 percent, crossing the 20,000 threshold for the first time, very high quality; we’re hiring faculty in all our departments and that seems to be going extremely well; contributions, gifts to the university are up, I believe it’s about 20 percent over a year ago.”
The process in looking for a new University president continues, and that effort is expected to stretch over the next year or so.