Despite months of complaints and calls for her resignation or removal, embattled Title IX Coordinator Morgan Levy’s name is nowhere to be found in Thursday’s long-awaited report on UR’s handling of the alleged sexual misconduct of Professor T. Florian Jaeger.
In an interview with the Campus Times, special investigator Mary Jo White explained that most concerns about Levy’s handling of student complaints fell outside the scope of her four-month investigation.
Those that didn’t, her team was unable to substantiate.
“We certainly interviewed her because she had relevant information [to the Jaeger investigation],” White said, “but the scope was not to look into the Title IX records and procedures.”
She added that “we looked at them because one of the complainant’s concerns was that, in fact, the Title IX program administered by Morgan Levy was more robust than what’s done when it’s a complaint against a faculty member and handled as a Policy 106 matter.”
The mission of the Board of Trustees Special Committee, which hired White, was to “oversee an independent, comprehensive investigation into all matters involving the EEOC complaint” as well as to “review the University’s processes and procedures related to addressing claims of sexual abuse and harassment.”
But all faculty sexual misconduct allegations — like those against Jaeger — are investigated by the Office of Counsel under University Policy 106, not under Title IX. The “processes and procedures” mentioned in the committee’s charge, then, only include those set off by the Jaeger complaints, not concerns about Levy — outside of those regarding Jaeger — that came out this past fall.
Still, Mary Beth Hogan, White’s co-investigator, said in the same interview that “we were contacted about one Title IX matter, which we did look into” and that it “had been handled in compliance with the school’s policies.”
Hogan noted that those policies — concerning student-on-student sexual misconduct — are actually “quite robust” and that the special investigators “did not see any type of systemic problem at all.”
Nor were White and her team able to validate the claims contained in the initial EEOC complaint — and therefore within the scope of the investigation — including those that Levy had made problematic remarks about power imbalances in sexual relationships.
Overall, White said, the team found Levy “very knowledgeable and very cooperative.”
“She is truly an expert in this area,” Hogan added, “and she provided us with a lot of information and resources.”
During the interview, White addressed several additional concerns that have circulated among the UR community since September, including some about the independence of the investigation.
For instance, she denied that she had prior relationships with members of the UR administration — and University President Joel Seligman in particular, with whom she shares a background in securities law.
“I don’t have any recollection — prior to this [investigation], obviously — of ever having met him,” she said of Seligman. “He recalled coming up to me at events where I think I was speaking to shake hands, but I didn’t have any recollection of that at all.”
White was formerly a U.S. attorney and the chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. In 2013, Seligman, a scholar of the SEC, praised White in a Financial Times article about her appointment to that post.
Other observers have questioned the investigation’s independence given that the University hired White’s firm, Debevoise & Plimpton, to undertake it. Thursday’s report puts the firm’s bill at $4.5 million.
“This comes up in every independent investigation,” White said. “You’re retained to do an independent investigation, and what that means is what it sounds like. That’s your specific assignment, and, ethically, you have to do that.”
She added: “The fact that someone pays you to do that doesn’t alter that at all. I’ve never done an investigation where I’d been assigned to do that any other way, and I didn’t do that here, either. Totally independent.”
Thursday’s report is generally favorable to the University — it claims that UR acted in “good faith, impartially, professionally, and in accordance with UR Policy 106” — although it substantiates many of the allegations against Jaeger.
In an effort to address that gap, the report emphasized its role as a “legal conclusion,” not a “moral or social judgment.” White accordingly urged people to read the full report, as well as its recommendations.
“Our recommendations go right to enhancing policies that could reach conduct that might well not have been reached — wasn’t reached, in some instances — by the prior policy,” she said. “The most obvious, most straightforward one is the faculty-student intimate relationships policy. One of our recommendations is serious consideration to just having an outright bar on all faculty-student relationships within a department.”
The current edition of the Faculty Handbook prohibits relationships between faculty and graduate students over whom they hold academic authority, as well as all relationships between faculty and undergraduates.
Those restrictions, adopted in 2014, put UR on par with most peer institutions, said White. But she emphasized that UR should still adopt an outright ban, “particularly given what’s happened here.”
Asked whether she thought that current University administration could still lead the institution effectively, White said that she didn’t have an answer.
“That’s really for others to judge,” she said. “Our purpose is to get all the facts out there for the community to judge and decision-makers to have and proceed forward, hopefully in a constructive, positive way.”
According to White, her team does not usually recommend personnel changes, and declined to do so with respect to UR.
“Obviously if you come across something — which we did not — that’s a violation of law or something like that on an individual, you certainly report on that,” she said. “But this was not [an investigation] where we were either asked to look at what the University should do about litigation or personnel decisions.”
“People have opinions about all of this, obviously, but we were focused on the facts.”
At least one member of the UR administration has already chosen to step down. Seligman offered his resignation Thursday morning without knowledge of the report’s findings. A public announcement came that afternoon, shortly after this interview took place.