As Rochester’s President Digs Deeper in Sexual Harassment Debacle, Students Plan Protests and Hunger Strikes
Mother Jones broke long simmer news on Friday that University of Rochester had engaged in institutional retaliation and harboring, promoting and defending sexual harasser and neuroscience professor Florian Jaeger. Faculty were joined by students in expressing shock and dismay. Making matters more worse, U of R President Joel Seligman issued a searing reply to the EEOC filing at the heart of the Mother Jones article.
The filing was was made by seven faculty members and a former graduate student. President Seligman responded by equating their allegations to a debunked Rolling Stone report on campus rape by an anonymous and ultimately uncredible source. Calling into question the honesty of seven prominent neuroscience faculty members who have paid for their own legal filings and faced retaliation, went over poorly on social media and with journalists. Seligman stepped further into the fray after he admitted he hadn’t even fully read the 111 page EEOC filing before issuing his ‘nothing to see here’ dismissal of the filing.
Seligman was given the complaint by the faculty four days before he made that statement (full disclosure: this document is a largely bullet pointed and it took me about an hour to read it). The student newspaper published (and now has deleted) a story questioning why it has taken Seligman so long to read the complaint and why his response was so harsh. Seligman will have to hope that there will be a lot more censorship on campus and social media to avoid this crisis.
Speaking to undergraduate Lindsay Wrobel, a political science senior, last night, she outlined how the pressure is going to intensify with upcoming fall events including Alumni Weekend. Wrobel seems keenly aware that getting alumni to support students efforts to fire Jaeger is critical. When she met with the President, she was told there ‘wasn’t enough evidence’ to oust Jaeger from the faculty. Seligman asked Wrobel for evidence, but knew full-well he had all the evidence in the years long investigation U of R had undertaken. She plans to present Seligman with a Freedom of Information Act Filing this week to jar his memory about the thousands of pages of testimony, screen shots, texts, emails and interviews conducted over the past three years as part of the Jaeger investigation.
Students are calling on those who want Jaeger and the leadership who enabled him gone to wear red armbands in solidarity with Celeste Kidd and others harassed and retaliated against by Jaeger.
Bigger events are planned for Wednesday with a sit in of an undergraduate course Jaeger teaches, an afternoon reading of the charges outside Seligman’s office and protests at the administrator’s offices who enabled Jaeger.
Speaking to Wrobel last night, we discussed her plans to also start a hunger strike if Jaeger is still allowed on campus. Wrobel and Jenna Register (a U of R graduate) hadn’t known of this case before last week but were motivated to help in reading news in Mother Jones of the U of R coverup. The hunger strike idea took hold with Wrobel looking at Jonathan Butler, a University of Missouri graduate student, used his hunger strike to oust leadership that failed to respond to student and faculty concerns about racial intolerance.
While Wrobel hasn’t met Celeste Kidd, a pivotal witness and victim in the U of R case, the body shaming Jaeger put Kidd through resonated with Wrobel as a way women are manipulated in society. Wrobel knows that hunger strikes ravage your body and mind quickly. She’s making plans for a legal power of attorney and meeting with an on campus physician to seek advice in how to manage the pain and sickness. She also is putting together a funding site to help defray the costs of armbands, legal advice and she acknowledged, hospital bills if they are needed. Asked how she felt about the impending hunger strike, she said “I’m terrified to my core. This is not a hill I want to die on, but society is a better place when brave people come forward.”
Article was corrected on 9/12/17 to reflect alumni weekend is not this weekend as had been previously stated.