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Amid Criticism, University of Rochester President Steps Down

Academics had expressed disapproval with the college’s handling of sexual harassment allegations made against a brain sciences professor.

Jan 12, 2018
Kerry Grens

WIKIMEDIA, TOMWSULCEROn the heels of an investigation into sexual harassment complaints against a University of Rochester professor, the college’s president, Joel Seligman, has elected to leave his post. Although the investigation cleared Seligman of wrongdoing—and also exonerated the accused, brain science professor Florian Jaeger, of violating university policies—critics praised his departure.

“I would have to say that President Seligman’s resignation is some vindication that what we were doing (raising the complaints) is right,” Richard Aslin, a University of Rochester researcher who sued Seligman and the institution for improperly investigating Jaeger and retaliating against those who complained, tells the Democrat & Chronicle. Aslin himself had resigned from the university in protest.

The school’s board of trustees, the local chamber of commerce, and others praised Seligman’s contributions to the community.

See “Academics Criticize University of Rochester’s Handling of Sexual Misconduct Case

The independent investigation was initiated last September to look into sexual misconduct allegations against Jaeger and to evaluate how the University of Rochester responded to them. While the lead investigator, Mary Jo White, a partner at the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton, found that the university never retaliated against whistleblowers and that Jaeger never touched anyone without consent, she tells Science she was looking only from a legal perspective, “not a moral or social judgment.”

“We credit that some [Brain and Cognitive Sciences] students were negatively impacted by the professor’s conduct earlier in his career at the University,” White’s report concludes. “Partly as a result of that conduct, but also because of the broad dissemination of the often exaggerated descriptions of that conduct, the esteemed BCS faculty has been fractured and the University’s reputation has been harmed.”

Science reports that Seligman decided to resign before he learned the conclusion of the report. According to the Democrat & Chronicle, Seligman expects to return to Rochester as a law professor after a year-long sabbatical.

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