Rochester’s Neuroscience Harassment Debacle Gives NIH Director a Chance to Tackle Harassment: Will He Take It?
Over the weekend, Mother Jones caught the attention of the scientific community with their story “SHE WAS A RISING STAR AT A MAJOR UNIVERSITY. THEN A LECHEROUS PROFESSOR MADE HER LIFE HELL” The article detailed the systematic power plays against Celeste Kidd, a former University of Rochester graduate student and current faculty member who was relentlessly harassed and retaliated against by T. Florian Jaeger a professor of Brain and Cognitive Neurosciences and self described ‘Dancer, architect of peace and human’*.
While the story lays out gut-wrenching details of Kidd’s earnest efforts to keep a relentless Jaeger at bay and out of her career, she was not alone. Details in a linked 111 page complaint to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission paint an even more lurid, repressive and systematic campaign on the part of Jaeger to sexualize relationships and the University of Rochester to save face, retain and promote him at any cost.
Jaeger was investigated for having sexual relations with trainees, harassing both students and colleagues and retaliating viciously against Kidd and other members of the faculty when he was investigated. The filing was made by a former graduate students and members of the faculty at University of Rochester. Richard Aslin and Elissa Newport have resigned because of the mishandling of this case with Aslin moving onto Yale. Newport is at Georgetown, and Hayden, a tenured faculty member who was retaliated against, and his wife accepted offers from the University of Minnesota.
Those familiar with the case (myself included) watched the slow moving administrative trainwreck in the last few months make ham handed efforts to contain the damage. This summer, Jaeger was unceremoniously dumped from a list of speakers European conference as news of repercussions of his exploits congealed around him. Efforts were made to tried to appease faculty who were planning on leaving the university, considering legal action and being publically forthcoming about this years long debacle. Faculty who are still at Rochester quietly message they are unsurprised that U of R administration is slow, unresponsive and prone to hurting the innocent in matters where their reputation is at stake.
Kidd’s case is reminiscent of other’s experience with Title IX (See Tenure She Wrote: Gaslighting: How Universities Use Their Title IX Office to Crush Complaints). What is surprising is the number of faculty who publicly and privately supported Kidd and denounced Jaeger. Even those wary of a ‘white man hero’ narrative, were stunned that Aslin’s previous positions as a vice-provost and dean held no extra gravitas with administration in weighing the group’s complaints about Jaeger.
As U of Rochester has committed (at this point) to going to court, NIH and NSF hold the power to register their displeasure more quickly and decisively. Rochester holds 12 T32 NIH training grants, and one would imagine this is an excellent place for fearless fighter of sexual harassment NIH Director Francis Collins to begin his long awaited campaign to end the sexual harassment in sciences. Surely with this many supporting faculty, 111 pages and 300+ counts outlining how an institution harbors sexual predators, U of R will lose federal money, right Dr. Collins?
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Updated Disclaimer: This post was written by BethAnn McLaughlin and I speak for myself.
*Jaeger’s twitter post with a knife and graduate school reference. For those interested in his work, Jaeger is hiring two post docs.