University assailed over handling of sexual harassment case

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Questions over the University of Rochester’s handling of sexual misconduct accusations against a professor have sparked protests, calls for the resignation of top administrators, vows by alumni to stop donations and even a hunger strike by one student that was in its fifth day Monday.

An attorney for seven current and former faculty members and a graduate student says they are preparing for a federal court fight against the private university, claiming administrators mishandled allegations against Professor T. Florian Jaeger, who was cleared of wrongdoing, and then retaliated against them for reporting the behavior. They want a change in policies and apologies for how they were treated.

“If we get a sense that University of Rochester wants to play around and they don’t want to settle … we will go into court and be ready to fight right away,” attorney Ann Olivarius said Monday.

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued a “right-to-sue” notice for one of the eight complainants, and decisions for the others are pending. Their identical complaint papers paint Jaeger as a “serial harasser” in the university’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, whose lack of boundaries potentially altered the career paths of at least 11 female students.

“He charmed, manipulated and sometimes threatened them, becoming gatekeeper to important social and professional opportunities,” the complaint says. “He flaunted numerous sexual relationships in front of graduate students, used constant and overt sexual language and behaved flirtatiously and overly familiarly with women students, including when he knew he was making the women feel unsafe.”

Faculty member Celeste Kidd said she was a graduate student recruit when Jaeger began a lengthy pattern of inappropriate electronic and in-person exchanges.