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Professor resigns over inaction on alleged sex misconduct

June 15, 2018

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — A professor who was named one of Time magazine’s 2017 Persons of the Year for outing a colleague accused of sexual misconduct has resigned from the University of Rochester over the university’s handling of complaints against him.

Celeste Kidd said Friday that the university had not meaningfully responded to problems that she and several other faculty members raised in a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last fall about T. Florian Jaeger, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences.

Jaeger was accused of flaunting sexual relationships with students, using uncomfortable sexual innuendo and holding off-site lab retreats that featured hot tubs and illegal drugs.

A special committee in January supported the university’s finding that Jaeger had not violated policy or law but called his behavior over several years since his arrival in 2007 unprofessional and offensive.

Protests from students over the case led to the resignation of President Joel Seligman. Kidd and a colleague were included among the “silence breakers” named as Time magazine’s 2017 persons of the year.

Jaeger is scheduled to resume teaching in the fall after spending most of last year off campus.

Kidd and her husband, Steven Piantadosi, a fellow assistant professor in the university’s brain and cognitive sciences department, said in a joint resignation letter Thursday that they and others who complained have seen their reputations damaged and their careers ruined at the private western New York university.

Both will start as tenure-track assistant professors at the University of California, Berkeley in the fall, Kidd said.

She said having Jaeger return to the classroom would have a chilling effect on future complaints.

“I can’t support that,” she said in an email.

“We leave only with the unshakable sadness that students at the University of Rochester have no one in the administration who will support them,” they wrote.

Jaeger, who has said he could have shown more maturity when he arrived, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

The professors have followed up their EEOC complaints with a federal lawsuit accusing the university of retaliation and breach of contract. The suit, which does not name Jaeger, is pending.

In a statement Friday, the university said it takes the safety of “every member of our community” seriously and has implemented or adopted several policy changes since the release of the special committee’s report. The university now has one of the strictest policies limiting relationships between faculty and students, the statement said, and will require faculty to undergo updated training in the fall.

In their letter, Kidd and Piantadosi said the university’s brain and cognitive sciences department has now lost six faculty members over the case who have taken “upwards of $10 million in grant funding with them.”

University spokeswoman Sara Miller said she could not confirm the $10 million amount without knowing how it was calculated.

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