Academic Epidemic: Rochester Sexual Harassment Case Strikes a Nerve as Student Hunger Strike Begins
Protesters who were planning on sitting in on Professor Florian Jaeger’s undergraduate class today were met with news of a new instructor. Jaeger wrote his class apologizing for that he would not be able to teach the class this semester and bemoaning the lack of presumption of innocence. Students seemed in little mood for his email, in which he also applauded those seeking diversity. In his absence, students moved their protest outside, drawing hundreds on campus and many more on Facebook live.
Protesters then moved to Wallace Hall, the President’s administrative building, and used a megaphone to scream some of the 300+ charges that were made regarding the sexually hostile environment at U of Rochester. President Seligman’s request earlier this week that protesters “show him the evidence” of harassment met with a vitriolic exchange in a multi-hour open meeting with students in which he paced around a stage beseeching students to use an administrative structure that protected Jaeger.
Videos of the meeting show Seligman telling students that there “was blame on both sides” and accusing students of “McCarthy-ism” when they asked for yes or no answers to their questions. Students seemed equally angered that Seligman seemed to ask at one point if they wanted another investigation and, when loud screams of “yes” overtook the video feed, he said they couldn’t move this process forward by “mob rule.”
This was not the first odd exchange with protesters and Seligman, who initially equated Mother Jones coverage of the 111 page Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filing of seven faculty members and a former graduate student with a hoax on a Rolling Stone reporter. The Rochester community seems keenly aware that the administration has ample evidence of texts, emails, and witness testimony they are not sharing. Those participating in the Title IX process are warned not to disclose information or risk termination, placing witnesses and victims in an impossible situation of having the information the community is demanding while risking their jobs if they share it.
Over a hundred University of Rochester faculty signed an online petition supporting the students and these problems could jeopardize federal funding for the university. Speaking to student activist and senior political science student Lindsay Wrobel tonight, she said she planned on starting her hunger strike at midnight. Wrobel was hopeful that the presence of reporters from major news outlets including the New York Times at today’s protest would further pressure administration to fire Jaeger and hold those who mishandled this case accountable.
Wrobel was hopeful that even more faculty would voice support of their efforts at ending sexual harassment and assault on campus and ending Jaeger’s association with the school. “Having deans publicly speak against what has happened (and break with Seligman) is going to be critical,” said Wrobel.
With a bit of anger, Wrobel discussed how students and alumni were giving their university 1-star reviews on Facebook. She also recognized that this is “more than a University of Rochester issue.” Indeed, this is more of an academic epidemic than an isolated incident. Male professors and administrators creating a hostile environment for female faculty and trainees with illegal abuses like sexual harassment, assault and retaliation have been documented at University of Arizona, Berkeley, University of Washington, University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, Yale, and Caltech,
Faced with a few hours before the start of her planned hunger strike at midnight tonight, Wrobel sounded much more confident, if tired, than when I spoke to her earlier this week. “I think they are going to see if I’m bluffing….They sorely underestimate who they are dealing with if they think I am,” she said.
WE WANT TO KNOW WHAT YOU THINK. WHAT IS IT GOING TO TAKE TO TURN THE TIDE AGAINST PROFESSORS WHO HARASS STUDENTS AND FACULTY?