U of R special committee says complainants not participating in investigation

The special committee to investigate an EEOC complaint at the University of Rochester alleging sexual harassment said the people who filed the complaint will not be part of the investigation. (Logo: U of R)

Rochester, N.Y. (WHAM) - The special committee investigating an EEOC complaint at the University of Rochester alleging sexual harassment said the people who filed the complaint will not be part of the investigation.

In a statement released Wednesday, the committee said it received a letter from the EEOC complainants, declining to participate in the investigation. The reason was not made public by the committee.

Part of that statement reads, "The Special Committee has requested and sincerely hopes that the complainants will reconsider and cooperate with the investigation."

Dr. Richard Aslin, one of the people listed on the EEOC complaint, responded in a phone interview about the reason behind the letter.

"We're willing to cooperate if the university would agree that we have legitimate complaints and if we could cease our legal action with the university, because we would have hopefully faith that the University would do the right thing," Aslin said. "And so far, we have not received any assurances by either Mary Jo White or the special committee that we can proceed under those terms."

Dr. Celeste Kidd, the woman who initially filed the EEOC complaint, told 13WHAM Wednesday she hopes to be able to be a part of the investigation.

"I was surprised and confused by that statement," said Dr. Kidd. "We have not said that we won't cooperate. In fact, we've said the opposite. We have a legal case pending that would be adjudicated in a court of law that I have a lot of confidence in would actually be neutral."

The committee was created in response to the federal complaint accusing Dr. Florian Jaeger of pressuring students to share drugs, sex and hot tub parties. It also accuses the university of a shoddy investigation once the allegations first came to light in 2016. Dr. Jaeger has since been placed on administrative leave.

The statement from the special committee adds that they will accommodate the complainants’ attorneys so they can be present during any interviews. Mary Jo White, whose law firm is independently running the investigation, said without the complainants agreeing to testify again, she will rely on interviews with other witnesses and information and documentation already in the record.

Witnesses who have come forward and want to remain anonymous will not be identified by name in the public report, White added.

Two new members of the committee were also announced Wednesday: Dr. Jean Bidlack, Professor and Associate Chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology, and Kolja Keller, a fifth year PhD student in philosophy will be joining the special committee.

Last month, the University of Rochester said it would be expanding the committee and add seats in response to calls for inclusion of student and faculty representatives.

A timeline for the investigation and subsequent report's release has not yet been established.

Mary Jo White also provided a statement to 13WHAM regarding the investigation:

"I have been engaged by the Special Committee of the University of Rochester Board of Trustees to conduct a thorough, impartial and independent investigation. My team and I will fully discharge that responsibility. We will endeavor to obtain the cooperation of all individuals who have knowledge of the matters described in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint. We will offer anonymity to individuals whose names are not contained in the complaint and work with the attorneys of those who are named to make appropriate arrangements for their clients’ cooperation. Our only goal is to uncover the truth and report it publicly. We trust that the entire University community shares this goal, and we would very much appreciate cooperation from all with relevant knowledge."

The 11 people who signed the EEOC complaint against the University of Rochester released the following response Wednesday:

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