Classes have only been in session for two days at the University of Rochester. But already students are protesting the findings of an independent investigation into the allegations against professor Florian Jaeger and the University.
That report was released earlier this month when students were on break. Lead investigator and former U.S. attorney Mary Jo White announced the findings. It maintains the university’s handling of the case was appropriate but did suggest the university update policies regarding student/faculty relationships and sexual harassment. Another recommendation was to create an independent department to investigate these complaints in the future.
“Despite being labeled as a sexual predator in the complaints there have never been allegations of sexual assaults, unwanted groping, any use of force or any exhibitionism outside of consensual relationships and we have found no evidence of such behavior ever occurring,” she said in early January.
Marissa Adams is one of the organizers of Friday’s rally. She says they want to create this independent department but also announced their desire to unionize graduate students, saying they are paid too little and undervalued for their work. Currently, the students are shopping around for the best option but will have further details in coming weeks.
Protestors also kicked off a letter-writing campaign. Earlier this year, various universities urged students to not consider graduate school at the UR. Adams said they wanted to take the idea further so they are writing to students at their former high schools.
“We learned one of these relationships involved an undergraduate student,” said Adams, regarding Jaegers’ relationships. She says they didn’t know about this relationship before the report but feel it’s important to warn prospective undergraduate students as well.
“If Florian Jaeger is described and characterized as being immature as an excuse for his behavior in the Mary Jo White report then why was he given tenure? Why is it so hard for Florian Jaeger to understand that as a professor you shouldn’t be sleeping with students and subordinates. You don’t need to know Title IX law to understand this," said Adams.
Former doctoral student Joseph Irerra spoke at Friday’s rally. He’s engaged in his own federal lawsuit against the University, specifically Piano Department Chairman Douglas Humpherys who was his advisor in 2010. He claims that when he rebuffed Humpherys’ sexual advances, Humpherys retaliated against him, keeping him from finding employment after graduation.
He backs the need for this independent department, saying:
“I believe that the University of Rochester should have a separate department that has a firewall between it and the departments and the administration. When a student believes they’ve been a victim of discrimination or retaliation that student should be able to go outside of that department and administration to a separate entity to file a complaint.”
Humpherys has said that he absolutely denies the allegations and is vigorously defending himself through the legal process.