The controversy over University of Rochester Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences professor T. Florian Jaeger drives on, as students organized Wednesday to protest. The call for action on the steps of the Rush Rhees Library featured powerful words on the impact of sexual violence, echoing over crowds bearing signs reading “UR, WTF (Won’t Terminate Florian),” “UR Failing Us,” “Protect Us,” and others.
Organized by students Lindsay Wrobel and Jenna Register, the protest brought together students and alumni from all walks of life and backgrounds, all bound together by a demand for termination of Jaeger, along with Title IX coordinator Morgan Levy, President Joel Seligman and other staff they see as complicit in Jaeger’s alleged behavior.
“The sadness, the heartbreak, the disappointment, the fear, that is just as important to address as the anger,” said history student and executive boardmember of College Feminists Julia DeLuca.
Pointing to the many members of the student body who may have suffered sexual abuse, some of whom spoke at the protest, and did not have access to the proper resources, DeLuca sent out an apology.
“I am sorry, I am sorry the administration has broken its promise to you, to place your safety over its integrity, your dignity over its money,” DeLuca said.
The protest followed a town hall on Tuesday evening where Seligman addressed the student body over the issue of Jaeger. Seligman vowed to “move heaven and Earth” to improve the University’s sexual assault resources and perform an investigation into the handling of the EEOC complaint against Jaeger. However, Seligman declined to open a new investigation into Jaeger himself, calling many students to question Seligman’s motives, the integrity of the two past investigations and whether anything would truly get done.
Seligman, however, did apologize for comments comparing the complaint, filed by eight present and former professors and graduate students, to the Rolling Stone controversy of 2014, when a 9,000-word article by journalist Sabrina Erdely on a rape at the University of Virginia campus proved to be a fabrication.
For first-year student Robert Koenig, the development of the Jaeger issue has disillusioned him about a university where he jumped up and down with joy upon being accepted, and where his father had attended before him.
Speaking of an email sent by Seligman earlier in the week pleading with students to not jump to conclusions based on media coverage, Koenig begged a question of the crowd of dozens of students.
“Did we come to the U of R to have our feelings stay hidden?” Koenig asked. “To let our thoughts stay silent because of fear of retaliation? I say not.”
Among the calls for action came a retaliatory plan from alumni should the university not take action on Jaeger and reopen the investigation into his alleged actions. Keith Jensen, a UR alum, said that should the school stay inactive, the flow of money will come to a halt.
“I just want everyone to know there are tens of thousands of alumni out there supporting you right now, and we will be withholding our money if things do not change,” Jensen said. “Because the university responds when you try to take away their money.”
While no official timeline has been given, Seligman said that the university will take action to reform policy to better serve and protect students based on their complaints. The university is preparing a response to the EEOC complain filed Sept. 1.