Professor Florian T. Jaeger is slated to teach again this fall, sparking unrest this past week in the wake of the sexual misconduct scandal surrounding him this academic year.
“Keeping a perpetrator in school and not saying anything about policies to help students can be very terrifying to a university that lives with a mission of being ‘ever better,’” said sophomore Kaps Chalwe, summing up the mood of many students who spoke out on social media and with the Campus Times.
Jaeger will be teaching one undergraduate class, “Adaptive Processes in Speech Reception,” and supervising his graduate students and research lab.
Junior Connor Newman, a brain and cognitive science major who studied under Professor Celeste Kidd, an accuser of Jaeger’s, found the situation “ludicrous.”
“The BCS Department was and should be one of the strongest departments at the U of R,” Newman said. “We’ve lost some great professors already because the school is more willing to protect someone who has sexually harassed students and other professors over the safety of the school and the strength and integrity of the BCS Department.”
Students said they shouldn’t have to consider whether their professor has been accused of sexual misconduct when picking classes.
In a statement released sometime last week, the University acknowledged that students and faculty might react negatively to Jaeger’s return, but that it is important to follow the principle that individuals can change and improve through lessons.
“Multiple investigations determined that Professor Jaeger did not violate any laws or University policies, but aspects of his conduct a decade ago were determined to be unprofessional and inappropriate,” read the statement. “As a result of these investigations, the University reprimanded him and took other appropriate corrective steps. The Faculty Senate recently censured him, but stopped short of calling for further action. Professor Jaeger has taken responsibility for his actions and apologized.”
Kidd, one of several complainants in a federal suit against UR, called the University’s statement “shameful.”
“It’s shameful when those principles don’t include holding people accountable,” Kidd said. “There’s a chilling effect when students articulate that they’ve been exploited and nothing is done to make it right. Students have told me they’re afraid to make complaints at [UR] because of what they’ve seen in this case […] They don’t feel protected, and I think they’re right not to feel protected.”
Kidd hopes that in the future there will be a shift towards how situations like this are handled.
“There needs to be a big attitude shift — the biggest mistake was thinking that the policies were the problem,” Kidd said. “The problem was with the people interpreting the policies, [who] were willing to do anything to avoid holding people accountable. I think the problems run very deep and can’t just be fixed by new policies if the same people are interpreting them.”
Kid added that she is uncomfortable continuing to work at UR.
A few students who spoke with the Campus Times think Jaeger deserves another chance.
“We don’t have a clear account of what transpired,” first-year Philemon Rono said. “I think he should be allowed back. I believe the process he has undergone with the many committees has had an impact, and he should be given a second chance.”
Despite the dismay of many students with Jaeger’s return, there is little indication of giving up.
“It is only because of this situation that a group of graduate students including myself decided that starting a union would be a possible avenue for lasting change, and to prevent this from ever happening again,” graduate student Yuliya Muradova said.