Hundreds of protesters railed against the UR administration last Wednesday in a defiant, pleading, and sometimes tearful demonstration, which traveled from the steps of Rush Rhees Library to the steps of Wallis Hall.
“It’s really upsetting. When the speaker said ‘I should be enjoying my first semester,’ it’s true.” – Madeleine Fordham
Activists lambasted University President Joel Seligman for how the school handled sexual harassment claims against Professor T. Florian Jaeger. A federal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission revealed how the school cleared Jaeger after he was accused of harassing for years Celeste Kidd, another professor and former graduate student under Jaeger.
Kidd is one of 17 professors and students who complained about Jaeger’s behavior, according to the federal complaint, which was submitted by seven current and former professors and a former graduate student. The complaint primarily argues that UR retaliated against the employees who had come forward about Jaeger’s alleged harassment. The federal commission would not pass judgment on anything related directly to students.
“They find a way to send out happy emails and seem like everything’s okay. I’ve seen them do it for the last few years with people of color.” – Casey Weaver
Students in the crowd, inspired by the moment, came forward to recount stories of abuse on and off campus that stunned the audience into an emotional silence. If they stuttered, choked by tears, onlookers called out their support.
“It’s extremely powerful to see the community come together to address the issue at hand. We’re going to do our absolute best to converge to the point of improvement.” – Becca Mooney
Nearly all the protesters called for the firing or resignation of Jaeger, Title IX Coordinator Morgan Levy, and other UR employees. Some, even, called for Seligman himself to step down, and received cheers for it.
The afternoon was hot but most of the crowd stayed outside. It moved through the Eastman Quad and snaked through Dewey Lot, chanting.
“I think the protest and town hall meeting with Seligman is necessary, but it’s not enough. The university is not responding to this. It almost feels like ‘what can we do?’ As a student, I feel kind of helpless.” – Hannah O’Connor
The protesters continued along Wilson Boulevard and up to Wallis Hall, the administrative building. There, organizers rasped excerpts from the federal complaint through a megaphone, pausing afterward to lead the group in shouted rebukes. Administrators looked on from inside but never ventured out to face the crowd.
“He’s had numerous town halls over the years on the same topic making the same empty promises. I wouldn’t be opposed to him resigning.” – Jane Bryant
Though they called to Seligman from outside, it appeared he had already left campus. They branded him a coward.
“Joel, you have a choice: Do you care about the students here like they’re your own children or not?” – Lindsay Wrobel
“Florian Jaeger should not be congratulated for not harassing all of his students.” – Shirlene Wade
As the protest winded down, senior Lindsay Wrobel, one of its organizers, told those gathered that she was going on hunger strike. She said she was scared.
“Meliora is just a word on paper when professors are allowed to decide your tuition isn’t high enough — they need your body as well.” – Jacob Tyson
“Laura [Cowie-Haskell] has a sign here that says, ‘Protect Us.’ That shouldn’t even be a request.” – Jenna Register ‘16
Three hours after they began shouting, the voices stopped, hoarse. But their tension and anger still hung in the air as campus tried to find normalcy.
“I still love U of R. However, you hold what you love accountable.” – Amber Williams
Writing and reporting for this piece was contributed by Editor-in-Chief Justin Trombly, Managing Editor Jesse Bernstein, News Editor Lumi Schildkraut, and Columnist Jackie Powell. Design was handled by Illustrations Editor Luis Nova. Pictures were taken by Photo Editor Yiyun Huang and Editor-in-Chief Justin Trombly.
Editor’s Note (12/22/19): A sentence saying that, according to the EEOC complaint, Kidd’s account of harassment was supported by seven professors and 11 students was changed to reflect that Kidd was one of those professors and one of those students. The sentence was also changed to reflect that, according to the complaint, not all of the individuals necessarily supported Kidd’s account of her own experience, but complained about Jaeger’s behavior as they experienced it.