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U of R President Seligman tells WXXI he considered resigning for a month

January 12, 2018 05:47 PM

A day after he said he was resigning as University of Rochester President, Joel Seigman spoke with WXXI radio.

Seligman resigned the same day a report was published on the allegations of sexual harassment by a U of R professor, inadequate investigations by the university and alleged retaliation by the professor and the university against the accusers. 

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The report said the actions of Professor Florian Jaeger, while inappropriate and offensive, did not violate the University's policy on sexual harassment. The report said the university followed its policies when it comes to investigations and the report said neither Jaeger nor the school retaliated against the accusers.

Seligman told WXXI that he has been considering resigning for a month. 

"And what I had come to believe was this had become such a massive distraction to the campus and had so focused attention on one issue and obscured the great achievements on the campus systematically and so much else, that I came to realize that the institution needed a fresh start," Seligman told Randy Gorbman at WXXI News. "And as a practical matter the only way to get there was with a new leader." 

Seligman's resignation is effective Feb. 28. 

In a statement released through an attorney, Jaeger, who is on administrative leave, wrote, "The findings of the investigation commissioned by a Special Committee of the University of Rochester Board of Trustees confirm for the third time that I did not sexually harass any students, I did not retaliate against anyone, and I did not violate the policies of the University."

"I want to apologize to my students and colleagues—both within and beyond the department—for the distress and disruption these events have caused them."

In an email to students sent Thursday, Seligman wrote, "It has been the greatest honor of my life to have served the University of Rochester for the last twelve and a half years. I am grateful to everyone who has served with me and am proud of the progress we have made together. I have worked tirelessly on the University's behalf, motivated by a single overriding criterion: What is in the best interest of the University of Rochester?"

In his interview with WXXI, Seligman said his decision to resign was difficult. "Of course it was," he said. 

He told WXXI the decision came before the report, which mostly vindicated the university, was published. 

The first complaint against Jaeger in 2016 came in March of that year. According to documents in the report reviewed by News10NBC, the University investigated and found no evidence that the actions of Jaeger violated the university's policy on sexual harassment. The university heard several appeals and denied all of them. Several faculty filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and then filed a federal lawsuit and named Seligman as one of the defendants. 

When asked if he would have done anything differently, Seligman deferred and instead criticized a rush to judgment based on allegation. 

"And I will be quite blunt," Seligman told WXXI. "I don't think you should run the University or any important institution in our society on the basis of a 24 hour news cycle. I think we are the most enduring and perpetual institutions in western society and indeed in eastern society today and throughout the world because we carefully and diligently employ processes by which we can get to enduring results. We don't shoot from the hip and I think that's something that I think everyone should be reflecting upon that this point."

Seligman was asked if he has any regrets. 

"Obviously I have some regrets and I want to reflect upon them and I need to, I'm now out of the storm," he said. "And I want to step back and rethink a lot. But I don't have instant judgments on this." 

Since Seligman became U of R president in 2005, the university opened 11 new buildings including the Golisano Children's Hospital. According to Seligman's biography page on the U of R website, he started the "Meliora Challenge" which raised a record $1.373 billion dollars for the university. 

"Legacy is in the perception of others," he told WXXI. "What I could control was one thing: and that is everyday I did my best and everyday I put the best interest of the University first."

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Berkeley Brean

Copyright 2018 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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