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President Seligman announces independent review of harassment policy

September 14, 2017

President and CEO Joel Seligman has outlined several steps the University will take to review the institution’s policies on sexual harassment and misconduct and to address claims of retaliation when complaints are made against the University.

Seligman made the announcement on Tuesday, September 12, as part of a public Town Hall meeting attended by more than 500 students, faculty, and other members of the University community. During the three-hour meeting, Seligman answered questions about the University’s investigation of alleged misconduct by a member of the faculty. The allegations were spelled out in a complaint filed by other members of the faculty with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on August 30.

Seligman acknowledged what he described as “very real hurt and disappointment that many people on our campus are feeling,” but he emphasized that the University takes sexual misconduct very seriously.

“A University of Rochester where people feel supported and safe is my highest priority,” he added.

Seligman detailed specific steps that the University will take:

In his opening remarks to students, Seligman announced four specific actions the University will soon take:

  1. We will fully comply with EEOC process in response to the recently filed EEOC complaint. This means that we will file our response, called a Position Statement, with the EEOC by the end of the month.  In keeping with the EEOC’s process, our Position Statement will not be made public by us or by the EEOC.   An investigator will review the Complaint and our Position Statement and conduct an investigation.  If the EEOC cannot determine liability, it will give the Complainants a Notice of Right to Sue, which allows the complaint to proceed to federal court, if the Complainants choose to take it there.  This process may take many months.
  2. New claims concerning retaliation were made in the EEOC complaint.  We had not seen these claims before.  So that all will have confidence in the integrity of a review of these claims, we will engage an independent investigator from outside the University with a proven track history of investigations of this kind, to review these new claims and other new evidence not reviewed in the earlier investigation. I will communicate the identity of this independent investigator in the coming days.
  3. I will ask this investigator or a separate independent investigator of similar stature and experience to review our processes and procedures with respect to our discrimination and harassment policy and our investigation and appeal processes.  This review is intended to ensure that we are using best practices, which is, and has always been our intention.
  4. Among the issues raised by the controversy concerning the EEOC complaint are questions about our campus climate for women. This is an issue that also deserves the most serious consideration.  I announced yesterday that I am appointing Deans Wendi Heinzelman and Kathy Rideout to Co-Chair a Commission on Women and Gender in Academia.  In the ensuing days, I will announce the membership of this Commission and its full charge.  This Commission will involve faculty and student representatives, and I will ask relevant faculty and student organizations to nominate members. The purpose of this Commission will be to identify ways in which we can better address such issues as hiring, promotion, tenure and climate for faculty and academic opportunities for students.

Seligman reiterated that his goal is to do his best to ensure that everyone in the University community feels safe on campus and can be proud that the University has no tolerance for harassment directed at any member of the community. But he also promised that he’s committed to making sure that Rochester’s policies and process for evaluating misconduct are fair to all involved.

Seligman says he is currently reviewing other issues and questions raised during the Town Hall. He encourages those who have concerns or comments about campus safety, policies, and the steps that he outlined during the Town Hall meeting to contact him directly.

Category: University News

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