To the Special Committee of the Board of Trustees of the University of Rochester
I was a Ph.D student in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences from 2006 to 2013.
I was in Rochester from 2006 to 2012, and when I was nearly finished writing up my dissertation, I moved to London in March 2012 and took another full-time job. I felt that while I had many close friends and an excellent support network in Rochester, the overall culture in the department was toxic and damaging to my mental health, and I did not feel like I could finish my dissertation if I stayed. I did finish writing in London and graduated in May 2013.
I am one of the 11 female graduate students and post-docs from UR who contributed testimony to the federal complaint. We actively avoided working with Professor T. Florian Jaeger because of his constant sexual innuendos, pressure to have intimate and sexual relationships with students, power plays, and other unprofessional behavior — which created a stressful, difficult, and unequal environment in which to pursue our education. I felt that we, as female graduate students and post-docs, were faced with an unfair and unreasonable choice to either avoid Jaeger and miss out on educational and professional development opportunities, or to interact with Jaeger and expose ourselves as targets.
My colleague Professor Celeste Kidd has told me that my name was given as someone she suggested should be interviewed in the original 2013 complaint — but I was never contacted.
In a March 2016 conversation, Celeste Kidd asked me if I would be willing to speak to the University about Jaeger and my experiences with him in the program, and I said that I would. I have documented conversations with both Kidd and Keturah Bixby, in which they asked if I had been contacted by the University yet, and I said I had not been. In August 2016, Bixby circulated a letter that I signed, saying that I had experienced and/or witnessed sexual harassment while at the University. It was only in response to this letter that I was finally contacted, in an email I unfortunately missed. It was not until I was contacted by a representative from the McAllister Olivarius law firm that I was able to give my account of my experience.
I am hurt by the harassment that happened while I was a student.
I am hurt by the unfair way that the University handled the investigations.
I am infuriated that they did not offer any protection to the complainants and expected my colleagues who were still in the department to carry on as normal without adequate support.
I am infuriated that this left them open to retaliation, and this makes me feel that I was right not to bring these charges forward while I was a student.
I am hurt, saddened, maddened, and livid at the University’s actions over the past month. Responses continually calls into question the evidence and substantiation for the complaints, which is not only personally hurtful but completely illogical. How can they possibly call into question evidence they never even bothered to collect? And why are you now asking Mary Jo White and her firm to collect it, at the risk of forcing victims to revisit our traumatic experiences? When McAllister Olivarius has now conducted the investigation the University should have conducted in the first place? When the complaint already delineates several ways in which the University investigations were flawed?
While McAllister Olivarius does not represent me legally, I believe its clients’ interests align with my own, so I do not want to give information to anyone that I am not also giving to them.
I thank you for your statement clarifying the scope of the investigation. I see that steps have been taken to progress toward the aims outlined in the complaint, but unsettling concerns remain. I appreciate the desire compensate for previous failings, but I fear the costly investigation you’ve commissioned is too little, too late. The complainants and their lawyers cannot participate in this investigation due to the pending legal action. Other witnesses, such as myself, have already given our account in the complaint. The evidence collected thus far cannot be substantiated without our involvement, but I’m sure that many witnesses will not want to be part of this investigation. I don’t want to have to encourage them to do so in order for our claims to be taken seriously by the University.
Evidence of Jaeger’s harassment is not only documented and cross-referenced by multiple witnesses’ testimony, but we also have documented text conversations to add to the evidence should it come to that. But we don’t want to have to do that, and we certainly don’t want to have to do that more than once. Because the University is still unwilling to discuss the case with the complainants and their lawyers one month on, it appears increasingly likely that this case will go to court. I feel we need to conserve our emotional energy for that eventuality. I’ve already had to take time off work with the emotional stress of this case over the last few weeks, and I have told my current work colleagues about this because it is clearly impacting my productivity. I have been advised by my therapist to carefully consider how to shape my involvement to minimize the risk to my own personal well-being.
Please, don’t keep putting us in this position. There is plenty of evidence already if the University would just sit down and discuss it with those who have already collected it.