The University’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit from nine current and former employees and students was denied on Wednesday by a federal judge.
The lawsuit, filed over 20 months ago, regards the University’s alleged retaliation against those who spoke out about the alleged sexual misconduct of professor T. Florian Jaeger. The outrage in response to the allegations led to the resignation of former University President Joel Seligman. Jaeger himself is still employed by the University.
The judge did not confirm or deny the veracity of the allegations against the University, but acknowledged that some of the alleged actions, if true, would be violations of law.
This contradicts attorney Mary Jo White’s report, which denied the legal legitimacy of the claims. White was hired by UR’s Board of Trustees Special Committee to investigate the claims of misconduct and retaliation.
The nine individuals filed the lawsuit in December of 2017, a month before the release of White’s report.
“Although this ruling does not end the litigation, the University is confident that it will prevail on the legal and factual merits of the remaining claims,” a statement from the University said.
The University’s statement also said that after the release of White’s report, “the University has reviewed and strengthened many of its sexual misconduct policies and practices[.]”
“We want everyone who works and studies at the University to be treated fairly and equitably by others, and to report any instances when this has not been the case,” the statement said, directing readers to the University’s “Culture of Respect” website.
The statement from the nine plaintiffs offered more details, as well as criticism.
“On the one hand, UR has repeatedly confirmed the fundamental validity of our complaint through a blizzard of new initiatives,” the plaintiffs’ statement said.
Among other things, it pointed to “revamped” sexual harassment policies, improved sexual harassment training, and Seligman’s resignation (and replacement with President Sarah Mangelsdorf).
“On the other hand, the reforms announced have been more cosmetic than substantial,” the statement said, pointing to the University’s treatment of the lawsuit itself.
“But until the University is willing to admit its scorched-earth defense does not make sense,” the statement said. “We must and will fight on.”