Joel Seligman resigns as UR president

January 11, 2018 11:39 PM

UR President Joel Seligman says he will step down.

The announcement follows the release of a report that looked into how the university and Seligman handled an investigation into a professor accused of sexual harassment.

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In a letter, Seligman says, "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."

Seligman's final day as president will be February 28. In a statement, the Board of Trustees says Seligman made the decision to resign before the results of the investigation were released.

Seligman was named in a lawsuit that followed an EEOC complaint against the university. The lawsuit claims he didn't do enough to respond to multiple allegations against Professor Florian Jaeger. Jaeger was accused of using his position of power to coerce students into sexual relationships.

Jaeger was cleared of any misconduct following initial investigations by the university. But, following the EEOC complaint and pressure from students, the Board of Trustees launched an independent investigation into the matter.

Those results were released Thursday and found no violation of any university policy or the law through Jaeger's conduct. Investigators said Jaeger's conduct did not "meet the standard for sexual harassment, as currently defined by law." But, while not unlawful, investigators did say: "Jaeger's conduct before 2014 was at times inappropriate, unprofessional and offensive, and may have been harmful to some students."

Professors say Seligman's resignation vindicates their concerns

Despite the findings of the independent investigation, the University of Rochester professors say Joel Seligman's decision to resign vindicates their concerns.

Speaking Thursday, professors said the findings of the investigation were flawed.

"Despite the conclusion of the Debevoise and Plimpton report that the university followed its guidelines and violated no laws, we couldn't disagree more," says Dr. Richard Aslin, former U of R Provost.

Dr. Aslin was among the group of faculty and former students whose reaction to Mary Jo White's report was swift and decisive. The group of nine all agree the report is flawed.

"We did not participate in this investigation," says Dr. Jessica Cantlon, professor. "They tried to construct our stories for us, but in doing that they've created an inaccurate picture of our experiences and come to inaccurate experiences."

The group is having a hard time reconciling the findings in the report on both Florian Jaeger and the university's response.

"It accepts that Jaeger acted repeatedly made female students uncomfortable and threatened," says Ann Olivarius, attorney representing complainants. "It even accepts if Jaeger acted the way he did in NYC rather than Rochester it would have likely been unlawful."

Dr. Celeste Kidd, who was among the first to speak publicly about what was happening to her, says she is disappointed in the report, but not surprised. Kidd was joined by numerous other women and men who had their own stories.

"Yet somehow concludes that that's not strong enough evidence," Dr. Kidd explains. "It's like if that's not strong enough evidence -- 16 women coming forward isn't enough evidence, then I don't know what is."

Letter by Seligman to students

Full statement from Board of Trustees

Joel Seligman advised the Board of Trustees of the University of Rochester that he is resigning as President, effective February 28, 2018.

President Seligman notified the Board of Trustees of his decision before the Board, the Special Committee or President Seligman had received The Report of the Independent Investigation.

As we as a community begin to consider this Report, we Trustees express our heartfelt apology to anyone who was hurt by the actions of any University employee, or who felt intimidated, excluded, or harassed.

We Trustees have many serious decisions to make in the days ahead. We will carefully review the facts, findings and recommendations in The Report, and our deliberations will be guided by our commitment to ensuring that the University of Rochester is a place of unity where all of our students, faculty, employees and visitors feel safe, respected, secure and empowered to achieve their highest potential. It is our sincere hope that the University of Rochester will be known one of the best and most welcoming universities in the nation to work and learn.

President Seligman has been a brilliant, transformative leader of University of Rochester who will long be remembered for substantially expanding our academic programs and our campus, broadening our student and faculty diversity, strengthening our finances, increasing our enrollment and securing Rochester’s place among America’s finest academic institutions. We thank him for his distinguished service to our University, our community and our state and we wish him well.


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