July 27, 2011
To: The University Community
From: Joel Seligman
I today am accepting the Report and Recommendations of the University of Rochester's Office of Counsel with respect to the tragic death of Jeffrey Bordeaux Jr. on January 15, 2011. I also am making this Report public today.
The Report presents a detailed factual reconstruction of the events before and after the sudden and unexpected fight on January 15th that resulted in Jeffrey Bordeaux Jr.'s death. As terrible and painful as this tragedy was, the Report concludes that this "was not something that the University could have foreseen or prevented with the information it possessed at the time." The Report recounts that at the criminal trial, Judge DeMarco found Daren Venable not guilty based on Daren's argument of justified self defense. The Report also explains:
There was no known history of any tension between these two young men. Neither student had a history of disciplinary problems at the University. Their fight was apparently a heat of the moment private quarrel over a young woman. Nothing in our review indicated that the University was aware of the possibility of a dispute between these students that might escalate to a physical confrontation, let alone a confrontation involving a weapon.
The Report concludes that the systems and policies in place at the time of this tragedy were effective and were followed.
The Report further concludes that the University's response to the tragedy was "appropriate and consistent with the University plan for dealing with emergencies."
The evidence supporting these conclusions is detailed and persuasive. I am grateful to the many people throughout the University who were involved in addressing the needs of the people affected by this tragedy beginning in the early morning hours of January 15th.
Nothing in this Report should detract from how painful and saddening were the death of Jeffrey Bordeaux Jr. and the subsequent criminal trial of Daren Venable. The pain to the family and friends of both of these young men is real and has been wrenching. My heart goes out to those who were touched so deeply and personally by this tragedy.
In addition to preparing a review of the tragic events of January 15th, I also charged the Office of Counsel to propose what additional steps we could take to provide a safe environment for all students, faculty and staff at the University. The Report includes 23 recommendations. I do not believe that any of these recommendations would have prevented this tragedy. All in the future may contribute, often in incremental ways, to further enhancing safety on our campus. For example, over 80 percent of our students who live on campus live in residences staffed by Residential Life. I am adopting the Report's recommendation that a graduate head resident live in each fraternity house and any other University facility that does not currently have a Residential Life representative, such as Drama House and the Community Living Center, so that all students living on campus will have available the same level of University staffing.
Other recommendations that I have adopted require an annual review of the relevant statistics on undergraduate behavior to analyze trends and make changes when appropriate in programs or practices and to address evolving issues of concern; expand the use of our CAREnetwork, the electronic system for reporting concerns about students in crisis or needing help dealing with personal and emotional issues; require additional Security patrols for more frequent checks at parties; implement additional rules about registration of parties; and find ways to increase awareness of University policies prohibiting weapons and physical fights and the use of a presumption of suspension for these violations.
I have asked General Counsel Sue Stewart to oversee implementation of each of these recommendations.
Several of these recommendations will require consultation with students and others for effective implementation. The Deans will communicate with students in the near future about these recommendations and will involve students soon after they return to the campus for the fall semester.
Let me express my gratitude to Sue Stewart, Senior Vice President and General Counsel; Spencer Studwell, Director of Risk Management; Richard Crummins, Senior Counsel; and Deirdre Flynn, Senior Counsel, who prepared the Report, as well as to outside counsel, James Keller of the Saul Ewing law firm; University of Rochester Board members Ed Hajim, Cathy Minehan, Hugo Sonnenschein, and Bob Witmer who reviewed the Report and also to the 50 or so representatives of the University's College of Arts, Sciences and Engineering, Security Services, Communications, Environmental Health and Safety, and the Medical Emergency Response Team who were interviewed in the preparation of this Report.