Rochester Baby Lab shutting down, moving from U of R

Celeste Kidd.JPG

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHAM) - It's a decision that will drastically change the course for some students at the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department at the University of Rochester.

Celeste Kidd is one of the complainants at the forefront of a lawsuit against the U of R involving the alleged sexual misconduct of fellow professor Florian Jaeger.

She said after learning he'll return to teach in the fall, she decided that leaving the university was her best option.

It's a move Kidd and her husband never planned on making. They both work as Assistant Professors for the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department at the university.

"It's been a very tough decision," she said.

They are taking a jobs at UC Berkley and taking their work with them.

"There will be a phasing out, but the Rochester Baby Lab won't exist anymore in the university," she explained.

Kidd is the director of the lab. It's a place where students study child development and learning.

The university has become a place she said she no longer feels safe to work.

"I don't feel it's safe to continue mentoring students there," she added.

Kidd is one of nearly a dozen people that accused the U of R of mishandling complaints of sexual misconduct of fellow professor Florian Jaeger.

An independent investigation found Jaeger's actions were at times inappropriate, but not unlawful.

He will return to teaching at the university this fall.

Kidd's current students will now have to decide if they want to transfer with her, or stay at the U of R.

"Even though I am moving I will be there for whatever they need,” she said.

Kidd's husband, Steve Piantadosi, is also an associate professor in the department. He is leaving too.

His lab focuses on number learning.

"Our grant funding is going to be moving with us," he said.

"My lab has a little over $2 million in funding now," he explained.

Both professors say they want to see student safety at the university come first.

"I think there is real change needed at the university," he said.

A statement from a U of R spokesperson said:

"The University, under the leadership of President Richard Feldman, takes the safety of every member of our community seriously. This commitment is evident in the many policy revisions and programmatic and organizational enhancements that have taken place as part of President Feldman’s Culture of Respect initiatives. Since February, through extensive collaborative work within the University community, a number of meaningful and substantial changes have been implemented or are in progress, including:

• The University of Rochester now has one of the most restrictive policies among U.S. higher education institutions with regard to relationships between faculty and students.

• A new University Vision and Values statement now anchors and gives meaning to education and training around diversity equity and inclusion University-wide.

• A new faculty Grievance Policy has been adopted.

• Updated guides have been created for sexual misconduct reporting options and resources, and we’ve created a website that provides easy access to policies and procedures.

• We’ve identified advisors to work with students, faculty, and staff who wish to bring forward complaints.

• We’ve developed updated training programs to taken by all members of the community next fall.

• We already have established a new university-wide Diversity and Equity Council that brings together campus leaders from across the University to discuss these issues.

• An active Restorative Practices program is working with numerous groups and individuals across campus to address issues raised by the BCS controversy.

• We’re in the process of establishing a new, university-wide, office to coordinate and oversee diversity, equity, and inclusion activities. It will be led by a new vice-president."

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