University President Richard Feldman asserted that Professor T. Florian Jaeger’s return to teaching does not mean the end of progress for UR in an interview last week with the Campus Times.
“I think we can move on with Professor Jaeger teaching again,” Feldman said. “We can address all the policies as we’ve been doing and do all the work we’re trying to do to make the community feel more welcoming, to make people feel safe.”
Feldman added that since the UR-commissioned investigation released earlier this semester found Jaeger had violated no school policy, and since the Faculty Senate censured his behaviour but not called for any sanctions, “we thought it would be okay for us to try and move on. We think this is part of the next phase.”
As part of the moving-on process, the University has begun several initiatives seeking to improve campus culture and inclusion.
For starters, UR recently announced its intent to prohibit all intimate relations between faculty and graduate students, a change that would add to UR’s existing policy banning relationships between faculty and undergraduate students.
“Trying to say when it’s okay and when it’s not would be too complicated,” said Feldman, who also cited the power dynamics within such relationships as a further source of confusion.
Furthermore, a new statement of “vision and values” — created via a committee — will apply not just to the College but to the entire University, including the graduate programs and the Medical Center. The statement will be up for approval in the coming May.
Feldman expressed his desire for how the statement could be used to shape campus culture.
“My hope is that when people behave in ways that are not what we’d like to see, they’ll get corrected locally [by] somebody saying, ‘Hey, that’s not what we do here,’ […] before things develop into larger issues.”
As the University also strives to fulfill the investigation report recommendations, it is taking its time.
Citing one recommendation, which called for advisors to be made available “to advise claimants and the accused on sexual harassment claims involving faculty,” Feldman said he agreed but thought it could be broadened to include sexual harassment claims that involved anybody, not just faculty members.
“We’re trying to figure out what we need to cover the entire range of cases,” Feldman said, pointing out that the Medical Center has a different setting that needs to be accounted for.
With the help of a consultant, the University is also devising the creation of a new office and position centered around diversity and equity. The purpose of this office would be to examine policies pertaining not only to sexual misconduct but to all issues of inclusion, such as race.
“Students can expect that over the coming months we will continue to address these issues, and there will be more and more changes of policy and continued improvement in things,” Feldman said, adding that he welcomes feedback from the student body on all new ideas and policy changes.
“The greatest success will come from the greatest collaboration,” he said.
Though hard deadlines have not been set for the creation of the office or the advisors, students can expect regular updates in their email.. They can also view and provide feedback on policies through the UR Respect website, which aims to increase access to information on University policy.