How an Academic Grudge Turned Into a #MeToo Panic

Throughout regular years, Meliora Weekend on the College of Rochester (U.R.) is likely one of the largest occasions of the autumn. A four-day mixture of Homecoming and Household Weekend, mother and father go to, alumni return to campus, and there is good old school pupil debauchery. In 2021, occasions have been smaller and topic to COVID-19 protocols, however along with a stand-up set by comedian Margaret Cho and an tackle by actress Geena Davis, there was one other notable occasion: a student-led protest on campus in opposition to a previously rising-star professor. His identify is Florian Jaeger.

On the time, the campus paper reported that round 40 college students confirmed up, and the organizers’ objective was to “carry consciousness to new college students” who had by no means heard of Jaeger or what occurred. To Jaeger, there’s some darkish irony to this assertion, as a result of whereas these college students might assume they know what occurred, he insists that they do not. What they know, he says, are rumors that unfold throughout campus like a poisonous algae bloom: that he is an abuser, a predator, a rapist. Rumors that made him persona non grata in his area; that led to threats, hate mail, formal censures; that acquired him banned from native companies and disinvited from worldwide talks. Rumors that just about destroyed his division and made his accusers icons of #MeToo. However these rumors, based on a number of investigations, dozens of witnesses, and Jaeger himself, are largely false. What was bought to a nationwide viewers as an archetypal case of sexual harassment was, as a substitute, a toxic combine {of professional} competitors, character conflicts, unhealthy blood, and an inner-departmental battle over hiring gone horribly incorrect.

Whereas the accusers’ aspect of the story has been informed many occasions, handed alongside each via rumor mills and media stories, Jaeger has largely remained silent. A part of it is because, throughout the investigations that may observe, he was directed by the college not to talk about what occurred. But it surely’s additionally as a result of a lot of this occurred in a second when the voices of the accused have been largely unwelcome. On the peak of #MeToo, few folks wished to listen to from the boys who had allegedly achieved incorrect. And so the story that is been repeated again and again went largely unchecked—a twisted sport of educational phone that, ultimately, would set off 4 investigations, value the college tens of millions of {dollars}, and result in a number of resignations, together with that of the president of the college. And it will destroy the profession, status, and practically the lifetime of the once-promising scholar Florian Jaeger.


A German nationwide, Jaeger got here to the College of Rochester as a younger and confident professor in 2007. Earlier than then, he had been a star pupil, with a Ph.D. from Stanford College in linguistics and cognitive science. When he accepted a tenure-track place at Rochester’s Division of Mind and Cognitive Sciences (BCS), he was simply 30, just a few years older than most of his graduate college students.

Rochester, a boom-and-bust city nearer to Cleveland than Manhattan, is not a lot to take a look at in comparison with the cities Jaeger was used to. However the college itself, over 150 acres abutting a riverside park, is dotted with ivied Greek Revival buildings that look a lot older than they’re. There’s magnificence to it. Jaeger’s first recollections, nevertheless, aren’t of the structure however the temperature.

“I arrived simply earlier than a blizzard,” he says. “I wakened the following day and all of the timber within the metropolis have been coated in a skinny layer of ice. It appeared fairly magical.”

It will get so chilly in Rochester that the college has a tunnel system that permits one to journey via campus underground, avoiding the wind and the slush. The folks in his new division have been hotter, inviting him out for meals and drinks as quickly as he arrived. Whereas Jaeger wasn’t notably thrilled about dwelling in Rochester, he was excited concerning the work he’d be doing there.

Within the first years of his profession at U.R., he revealed dozens of papers, received grants and awards, and was invited to worldwide conferences and talks. However although he was good in some respects, Jaeger was additionally seen by a few of his colleagues and college students as blunt, smug, and susceptible to inappropriate jokes about intercourse. He socialized as a lot with graduate college students as his professors. Above all, he was completely different: The kid of German labor activists, Jaeger rejected the kind of hierarchy that’s frequent in academia, seeing himself as equal to each his superiors and his college students.

One former pupil described Jaeger in an interview as “tremendous good however not nice at studying the room. He did not like filtering himself.” And so he did not. At a vacation occasion in 2008, for example, he informed a gaggle of colleagues and college students {that a} male professor discovered a feminine pupil enticing—whereas she was current. She later informed investigators that she discovered this “tremendous mortifying.” (This quote, together with a lot of the data offered on this article, comes from probably the most intensive investigation into Jaeger, which may be learn in full right here. This piece additionally depends on further investigations in addition to interviews with Jaeger’s colleagues and contemporaries, a few of whom requested anonymity for concern {of professional} penalties.) 

The basic problem might have been that Jaeger refused, in some methods, to assimilate, to behave his station in life. A part of this was in all probability his character and a part of it in all probability cultural. He dated or slept with a number of college students in his early years as a professor at U.R., though none labored in his lab or have been underneath his tutelage. This was, on the time, permitted underneath departmental coverage, however this once-common follow is now taboo, maybe assured to trigger issues for each the professor and for his or her college students. Jaeger says he sees that now, however in his early 30s, to him, it appeared regular. 

All of this—his character, his jokes, his flirting and boundary-pushing and sleeping round—made some folks in his division uncomfortable sufficient to keep away from him.

A kind of was Keturah Bixby. In November 2013, Bixby, then a graduate pupil, wrote a letter to division head Greg DeAngelis. She then printed it out, introduced it to his workplace, and sat there whereas he learn it. (Bixby didn’t reply to a request for remark.)

“There is a professor right here who’s been doing unprofessional issues that make me uncomfortable,” the letter, which was offered to Motive, started. “It is by no means something enormous, however it’s constructed up over time I have been right here and I do not really feel secure round him. Though I am typically actually joyful at Rochester, these conditions have made me depressing at occasions. It is Florian.”

Bixby went on to explain two incidents during which Jaeger made her uncomfortable.

Within the first, she wrote that he walked into her shared workplace and, with out asking, picked up a pen and Put up-it notes off her workplace mate’s desk and stood behind her writing a observe. She stated it was “creepy and unprofessional.”

Within the second incident, Bixby stated that at a recruiting occasion that yr, Jaeger requested if he may take an image of her. She refused, and he later took an image of her anyway.

“I used to be fairly offended,” she wrote in her letter, “and the image (if it nonetheless exists anyplace) is of me flipping him off. It makes me really feel offended, sick, and my pores and skin crawl to think about him having an image of me anyplace.”

Bixby added that she prevented each social {and professional} occasions for concern of seeing Jaeger, and requested that DeAngelis look into Jaeger’s habits and require “coaching on boundaries and respecting them.” She additionally wrote that she by no means wished to work together with Jaeger once more.

“I by no means need him at a chat I give,” she wrote. “Is that attainable? If he ever tries to push for interplay, is it okay to inform him I favor to not due to how uncomfortable his unprofessional habits has made me?”

DeAngelis was not the primary college member Bixby approached. As her letter notes, the prior spring, she’d gone to her adviser, Richard Aslin. Aslin, a founding member of the division, was a giant deal—he’d beforehand served because the dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences and he was a member of the Nationwide Academy of Sciences, an honor reserved for probably the most completed scientists in america. He was additionally very well-liked within the division and extremely revered within the area, thought-about a mentor, even a paternal determine, by a lot of his college students and colleagues, based on interviews with college and college students. However when Bixby got here to Aslin complaining of Jaeger’s habits, he neither approached Jaeger himself nor escalated the matter additional. (Aslin declined to be interviewed for this story.)

DeAngelis, nevertheless, took Bixby’s complaints extra significantly. After talking with two different graduate college students whom Bixby stated additionally had issues with Jaeger, he approached Jaeger along with his considerations.

As a result of confidentiality agreements, DeAngelis was unable to inform Jaeger who, precisely, complained or what the particular criticism was, and Jaeger was shocked and upset, each concerning the criticism and the truth that the complainant did not simply method him instantly. However he additionally modified his habits. He grew to become extra conscious of how he was perceived by others. That dialog seems to have been a turning level.

There have been no additional complaints about Jaeger till just a few years later, when previous allegations and new would come to the floor, partially due to the very man who had ignored Bixby within the first place: Richard Aslin.


For the following few years, issues went easily for Jaeger. He was in a long-term relationship with one other professor within the division and had lengthy since stopped relationship college students. He was granted tenure, promoted, and named director of the Middle for Language Sciences. However then, in early 2016, all the things modified.

In late winter that yr, the division was within the technique of changing a beloved college member named David Knill who had died immediately in his 50s. Knill’s focus was on imaginative and prescient and notion, and to some within the division, it was vital that his successor stick with it his legacy. They discovered their successor in Michele Rucci, an Italian neuroscientist.

There was, nevertheless, debate. One main voice in opposition to Rucci was a professor named Jessica Cantlon, who most popular a candidate nearer to her personal specialty. At one assembly to debate the appointment, based on interviews with college members who have been current, Cantlon objected to Rucci’s hiring on the grounds that he had married his former graduate pupil: Martina Poletti, a fellow Italian scientist who was herself up for a place within the division as a spousal rent, a typical follow at many tutorial establishments, together with U.R.

Jaeger, together with others within the assembly, argued again that it was each unlawful and unethical to debate Rucci’s relationship. It acquired heated. Jaeger threatened to depart the assembly and, based on interviews with witnesses, one other college member truly walked out.

Jaeger says that he and Cantlon had, at one time, been mates, together with their companions, each of whom have been additionally within the division. They socialized frequently—having dinners and drinks, going to birthday events, child showers, and, as soon as, a Flaming Lips live performance. However even earlier than the controversy over Rucci, he says, their friendship had began to bitter.

Jaeger cites one occasion specifically that made him cautious of Cantlon. He says Cantlon got here to his workplace uninvited and began disparaging a male colleague she was working with.

“Having heard the opposite aspect of the story, I advised to Jessica that the story was extra advanced than she made it out to be,” Jaeger says. “She instantly accused me of siding with the opposite college member as a result of he occurred to be male. A majority of these unsolicited conversations occurred just a few occasions, the repeated theme being that Jessica put different folks down.” After just a few related incidents, Jaeger says he and Cantlon largely stopped hanging out.

It wasn’t simply Jaeger who objected to hypothesis about Rucci’s relationship. One senior college member requested Cantlon if she had any proof of Rucci’s alleged wrongdoing or predatory habits, and Cantlon conceded that she did not. When the senior college member identified that they could not simply act on unfounded allegations, based on witness interviews, Cantlon advised they scuttle the provide by refusing to supply a job to his spouse. The senior college member opposed this concept, however later heard that Cantlon informed Poletti, who was visibly pregnant on the time, that the college had a weak maternity depart coverage. (Poletti confirmed this to Motive.) After studying about this, the senior college member suspected Cantlon’s objective was to scuttle the negotiations with Rucci. 

The division finally voted to supply the job to Rucci, however Cantlon continued to argue in opposition to him—and he or she introduced Jaeger into her marketing campaign, telling Aslin after a cocktail party that Jaeger, too, had sexual relationships with college students. Aslin was apparently appalled by this revelation, and later emailed Cantlon that he was “disgusted and offended” and would “not let this relaxation till [Jaeger] is out of the [department].”

Till this time, BCS had been remarkably cohesive, particularly for academia, the place competitors, drama, and interdepartmental battle is commonly the norm. Even when there was battle at BCS, it was shortly resolved, and school typically joked about how straightforward, how copacetic, the division was in comparison with others. It is one thing they bragged about to job candidates. Individuals spent holidays collectively; they took care of one another’s youngsters. However a lot of these friendship wouldn’t survive what occurred subsequent.


Cantlon, now with Aslin in her nook, began poking round for tales about Jaeger, contacting graduate college students and telling them that there had been a criticism made in opposition to him by “present college students.” This was false. None of his present college students complained, however irrespective of; ultimately the rumor unfold throughout the division, from college students and postdocs to school and workers and again once more.

On March 10, 2016, Aslin filed the primary criticism in opposition to Jaeger with the college’s Workplace of Counsel. Cantlon filed her personal criticism quickly after, and the college started an inner investigation. Jaeger says he was by no means allowed to see the complaints as a result of confidentiality insurance policies meant to guard victims.

In the meantime, Cantlon and Aslin continued to attempt to recruit new accusers regardless of directions from the Workplace of Counsel to maintain the investigation confidential. In an e-mail despatched on March 20, 2016, Aslin informed Cantlon that whereas he had been instructed to not speak concerning the investigation, he was going to talk about it anyway, including, “We want troops on our aspect.”

The 2 discovered a prepared soldier in Celeste Kidd, Cantlon’s supply from the start.

Kidd, a BCS graduate who had taken a job within the division after finishing her Ph.D., claimed, amongst different issues, that Jaeger sexually harassed her whereas she was being recruited to affix the division as a graduate pupil in 2007 and continued to harass her after she enrolled. Later investigations would forged doubt on these claims (and Kidd would, in flip, object to these investigations). However like Jaeger himself, Kidd is described by those that knew her as somebody who typically pushed in opposition to boundaries and social mores.

“My first impression of her was as kind of a Lena Dunham sort,” says Molly Tadin, the partner of a BCS college member who socialized with Jaeger and Kidd. “She was open and talkative to a level that might shortly result in oversharing.”

One investigation concluded that one in all Kidd’s complaints—that Jaeger talked about his personal intercourse life and requested about hers—might have been true, however investigators questioned whether or not this was truly offensive to her on the time based mostly on her personal behavior of speaking brazenly and graphically about her intercourse life. Additionally they famous that Kidd informed colleagues that she saved a listing of rising stars within the area she wished to sleep with. And, actually, she did find yourself marrying one in all them: Steven Piantadosi, a BCS professor who would aspect with Cantlon, Aslin, and Kidd in subsequent complaints. (Kidd didn’t reply to a request for remark.)

In some methods, this frankness might have made Jaeger and Kidd a superb match. For some time they have been shut, and so they even lived collectively briefly. Tadin informed me that Jaeger appeared to see Kidd as a kind of little sister and that she appeared to tremendously admire him. When requested if it appeared romantic, she stated no. 

The 2 first met when Kidd, who had a bachelor’s diploma in journalism, was interviewing for the Ph.D. program at BCS, quickly after Jaeger had joined the division. In dozens of emails and Fb messages that have been uncovered throughout investigations (and which have been reviewed by Motive), they talked regularly about Kidd’s resolution whether or not or to not be part of the varsity as she weighed a number of choices.

But it surely wasn’t all tutorial. Their communication earlier than Kidd moved to Rochester was playful, flirty, informal; they mentioned events and household and what they have been studying. At one level, Kidd stated she was studying Allen Ginsberg, and that his work reminded her of one in all Jaeger’s personal poems, which have been posted on his web site; Jaeger responded by saying he’d by no means learn Ginsberg however mentions The Human Stain, a Philip Roth novel a couple of professor pressured out of his college over unfounded allegations of racism.

Kidd wrote to Jaeger regularly and enthusiastically over this era. She later stated Jaeger’s messages have been unwelcome, however he says she by no means expressed that to him.

In a message from April 2007, nevertheless, Kidd did categorical some anger at Jaeger after she’d gone to satisfy him at a celebration throughout a convention in San Diego.

Their variations of occasions differ.

Kidd claimed in a later authorized submitting that she noticed Jaeger “groping” a potential Ph.D. pupil, which made her deeply uncomfortable. After leaving the occasion, she despatched him a message on Fb, and whereas she did not point out groping, she did say, “I am by no means uptight, however I do wish to understand how issues are upfront. You would have stated goodbye no less than.”

Jaeger says that he by no means groped anybody, however that he was there “arm in arm” along with his then-girlfriend, who was quickly to be becoming a member of BCS, although she could be working not in Jaeger’s lab or underneath his supervision. (So as to shield her privateness, I’ll name her Tara, a pseudonym.)

Jaeger says he did not discover Kidd depart, however he describes what occurred afterward this fashion: “I wakened the following day to a flurry of messages from Celeste. She appeared outraged about Tara, about how I had invited her to come back however then had been so impolite. I did not know what she was referring to. Celeste and I had talked on the occasion and all appeared high quality. My buddy, the host, later informed me that Celeste appeared distressed when she noticed me and Tara, and that she left in a rush.” (The host of the occasion verified that Kidd was there, though she has no reminiscence of interacting along with her. She additionally stated in an interview, “At no level did I see [Jaeger] doing something that I would consider as groping.”)

Jaeger says he texted Kidd again and provided to speak. She drove from Los Angeles, the place she lived on the time, to San Diego, the place he was for the convention, and the 2 went for a stroll. Jaeger says Kidd informed him she was upset about Tara.

“She saved saying she was apprehensive for me,” Jaeger says, “and so I informed her that it is OK, that Tara is my age, that we had talked concerning the challenges of relationship within the division, that she was not becoming a member of my lab, that I had nothing to do along with her admission to Rochester, that I had checked the college handbook, etcetera. However Celeste would not let it go. She stated I should not belief Tara, that Tara would make the most of me, that she was solely with me as a result of I used to be a professor. She additionally stated that, as a journalist, she knew precisely how such a narrative may get twisted to spoil my profession.”


After Aslin and Cantlon filed their complaints with the Workplace of Counsel, the primary investigation came about between March and Could 2016. In all, over 30 folks have been interviewed, a lot of whom Aslin had recognized as potential witnesses.

The college’s investigator, Catherine Nearpass, issued her report in June of that yr. It was largely in Jaeger’s favor: No present college students stated that Jaeger, or another college member, had ever made any sexual or sexually charged feedback to them or in any other case acted inappropriately. His college students stated the ambiance in his lab was secure and cozy, and the one criticism any present college students leveled in opposition to him was that his method may typically be too direct. (So as to shield accusers and witnesses, this report was not made public, however key findings have been offered to the division and reviewed by Motive.)

The investigation did verify that Jaeger had, between 2007 and 2010, made unwise and unprofessional choices, together with relationship a number of college students. However the report additionally famous that this wasn’t in opposition to departmental coverage till 2014, years after these relationships ended, and that not one of the college students have been underneath his tutelage. What’s extra, one of many girls he’d dated did not enroll within the college till after they’d damaged up, and one other did not date Jaeger till after she’d graduated. In mild of this, Nearpass discovered, these relationships nonetheless would have been permitted based on present college coverage.

The ultimate willpower that Jaeger had not violated college coverage was disputed by Aslin and Cantlon, who appealed the choice and continued to work to get him faraway from his job. They usually continued to speak about it, inflicting main stress within the division. One distressed college member emailed DeAngelis in July 2016, writing that there was an “organized effort underneath method to unfold [the complainants’] interpretation of the ultimate report.” One other member of the college informed me the battle consumed practically everybody, and that there was critical speak about splitting the division up and forming a brand new one.

“It was horrible,” the professor stated. “All people was speaking about what was happening. Some folks have been offended at Florian after which lots of people felt like they have been being manipulated by Jessica and Dick. It was very a lot an us versus them state of affairs.”


In July 2016, shortly after the Nearpass investigation concluded, Kidd filed a criticism of her personal with the Workplace of Counsel, alleging that Jaeger had retaliated in opposition to her for taking part within the first investigation and was “spreading rumors about [her] honesty and reliability to different division members.” 

This prompted a second investigation led by an outdoor investigator named Cynthia Curtin, which concluded in September 2016. Throughout her investigation, Curtin interviewed Jaeger, Kidd, Cantlon, Aslin, and eight different witnesses. She additionally reviewed each the accusers’ and the accused’s college emails and finally concluded  that whereas Jaeger did defend himself when requested instantly concerning the allegations, the proof didn’t help Kidd’s declare that Jaeger has retaliated in opposition to or unfold rumors about her. 

In the meantime, unbeknownst to a lot of the division, Jaeger did face official penalties. In August 2016, DeAngelis issued a letter to Jaeger noting that whereas the Nearpass investigation discovered he hadn’t violated any college insurance policies, his habits in his early years had been troubling. DeAngelis famous that his habits had improved since then, and he instructed Jaeger to finish coaching on respectful office habits, which he did. 

DeAngelis additionally introduced the formation of a committee on sexual harassment and office habits. He wished to maneuver the division ahead, to shut this disagreeable chapter, and to get again to the place it had been. It did not work. A number of staff threatened to depart, together with Aslin, who informed a dean that until Jaeger both resigned or made a “good religion try and reconcile, first by apologizing to the affected college students after which by admitting to the college that he behaved badly,” he and lots of others would stop.

Aslin additionally despatched a letter to Jaeger himself, writing that until he admitted that he had sexually harassed Kidd, he and the opposite complainants would, regardless of the chance of a defamation swimsuit, “go public.” And he famous that authorized motion may end in Jaeger’s deportation.

“I do not see anybody prepared to pony up funds on your protection,” he wrote, including that Jaeger may “be assured that future ‘warnings’ will likely be raised each time [he tries] to interact with different unsuspecting college.”

“P.S.,” he wrote. “Please don’t interpret this letter as a menace.”

Jaeger did interpret the letter as a menace, particularly as a result of, as a noncitizen, he feared deportation was an actual risk. 

In late November 2016, partly in response to Aslin’s letter, the college made its first assertion concerning the investigation in a memo to BCS college from Provost Robert Clark.

Clark didn’t identify the complainants in his memo, however he did acknowledge that there had been an investigation into Jaeger, that the investigation had concluded, and the matter was now closed. In an effort to fight what he known as the “the wealth of rumors and in some cases misinformation” throughout the division, Clark stated key findings from the investigation could be made accessible to the division.

After which he wrote this: “Lastly, because the chief tutorial officer for the establishment, I affirm that Dr. Jaeger is a valued member of our college. He has achieved great tutorial success since his arrival in 2007, together with being promoted with tenure in 2013 and his promotion to full professor in 2016. We stay up for persevering with to help Dr. Jaeger, as we do all of our college, and to Dr. Jaeger’s continued success as instructor, researcher and scholar right here on the College of Rochester.”

This memo was supposed to enhance the quickly deteriorating state of affairs throughout the division, however it had the alternative impact. One college member informed investigators the memo was “tone-deaf”; one other stated it was like “tossing gasoline onto glowing embers.”


Because the temper within the division degenerated, information of the investigation didn’t keep inside Rochester. That December, Jaeger was disinvited from a convention at Georgetown College. Much more regarding to him, he says, all of his college students’ papers have been rejected as effectively. He would, because the story unfold, ultimately get disinvited from no less than 10 conferences, lose a prestigious fellowship and different funding, and get faraway from a number of editorial boards.

Jaeger says he heard from professors exterior of Rochester that Aslin was saying Jaeger had slept with 18 graduate and undergraduate college students and that he acquired off on a technicality. Jaeger reported this through e-mail to DeAngelis and different senior members of the division, calling it a “extended smear marketing campaign.”

After receiving Jaeger’s e-mail, the senior college members moved him off the e-mail thread and responded instantly to one another. One confirmed that he, too, had heard from colleagues at different universities that Aslin was spreading particulars concerning the case. He wrote within the e-mail thread: the “identical particular person can’t be the accuser, the decide and the punisher.” One other in contrast Aslin’s habits to “vigilantism.”

After which, on December 2, 2016, on the finish of a college assembly, Aslin made good on his threats and resigned in protest three years earlier than his deliberate retirement date. He had been with the college for over 30 years.


By the point Aslin stop, Jaeger had twice been cleared of allegations that he violated college coverage. However fairly than admit defeat, his accusers continued their marketing campaign, resurrecting previous fees and including new ones.

Their avenue this time was a 111-page criticism filed with the federal Equal Employment Alternative Fee (EEOC). They known as Jaeger a “narcissistic and manipulative sexual predator” and stated he “abused his place of energy to govern graduate college students and post-­docs till they felt nearly wholly underneath his management or in concern of him.” Jaeger made it clear, they claimed, “that college students who wished to excel wanted to please him, socially and typically sexually.”

There was extra. The group claimed that at one in all his lab retreats—which, they stated, “concerned consuming, medication, music and soaking in a sizzling tub collectively”—a pupil “overdosed” on medication. (It was a weed brownie given to Jaeger’s longtime companion, who was not a pupil.) Additionally they claimed that no less than 11 feminine college students and postdocs misplaced out on instructional alternatives as a result of concern of encountering Jaeger. They accused the college administration of ignoring Jaeger’s habits and Nearpass of mishandling the primary investigation, and so they stated that they, fairly than the precise pupil victims of Jaeger’s alleged harassment, needed to carry these points to mild as a result of college students might have been disregarded by college officers. Additionally they praised their very own refusal to capitulate.

Quickly after submitting their complaints, members of the group spoke to the media, and the story unfold past academia and into the nationwide press. In September 2017, Mom Jones broke the story in an article entitled “She Was a Rising Star at a Main College. Then a Lecherous Professor Made Her Life Hell.” That “rising star” was Kidd, and the “lecherous professor” was Jaeger.

As soon as the story grew to become public, the college erupted into weeks of protests, with college students and school calling for each Jaeger’s firing and the resignation of Joel Seligman, the college president. A petition to have Jaeger faraway from his place obtained practically 40,000 signatures, and 450 college at different universities signed an open letter to the U.R. Board of Trustees calling Jaeger a predator and stating that they’d discourage their very own college students from attending or working for the College of Rochester.

One U.R. pupil, whom Jaeger had by no means met, started a starvation strike, which was coated within the New York Put up with the headline “Scholar Goes on Starvation Strike To Get Pervy Professor Fired.” She informed the media she would cease consuming till she was hospitalized.

In response to the protests and media consideration, the college’s Board of Trustees positioned Jaeger on depart.

After which, the very subsequent month, in October 2017, the actress Alyssa Milano tweeted a phrase that may launch a motion and turn out to be a rallying cry internationally to protest sexual harassment, abuse, and assault: #MeToo.

For Jaeger, the timing could not have been worse. For his accusers, it could not have been higher. On the finish of the yr, Cantlon and Kidd have been featured as two of Time journal’s Individuals of the 12 months together with “silence breakers” Ashley Judd, Megyn Kelly, and others who suffered abuse by the hands of males like Harvey Weinstein and Roger Ailes.


Whereas Kidd and Cantlon have been being celebrated and the college was awash in protests, U.R. initiated an investigation in response to the EEOC criticism. This one was led by an outdoor investigator, Mary Jo White, the legendary former U.S. legal professional and a chair of the Securities and Alternate Fee underneath Barack Obama.

White’s investigation took practically 4 months. The investigators interviewed over 140 witnesses and reviewed over 6,000 paperwork. The entire value to the college was $4.5 million. Not one of the complainants agreed to be interviewed pending a separate lawsuit, however White’s workforce relied on their intensive interviews from prior investigations in addition to emails and different paperwork offered by the college. 

The 207-page White report, on which a lot of the above narrative depends, was launched on January 11, 2018, and ultimately, it concluded what prior investigations had: Jaeger had acted unprofessionally and inappropriately in his early years on the faculty, however he had by no means violated any college insurance policies.

“We discovered that among the complaints’ allegations have been true, and Jaeger’s habits and statements, at occasions, have been considered by many (each female and male) as insensitive, unprofessional, merciless and infrequently containing sexual innuendo, and this notion, mixed with Jaeger’s status as a womanizer, genuinely precipitated some feminine college students to keep away from him socially and academically,” the report concluded.

“On the identical time,” it continued, “the complaints’ narrative—framed via the language of sexual predation and retaliatory animus in direction of girls—is basically with out factual foundation.”

White added that most of the claims have been “embellished,” “distorted,” or “unduly sensationalized” in an effort to “demonize” Jaeger, and he or she quoted one college member who stated the EEOC criticism learn “like a novel.” She additionally identified that the complainants misrepresented among the very folks they claimed have been victims and that they included among the so-called “victims” within the EEOC criticism with out their consent. In a single occasion, the complainants stated {that a} former pupil whom Jaeger dated cried in a professor’s workplace, implying that her misery was over the connection. When investigators interviewed the lady, she informed them that she was crying as a result of her sister had been in a automobile accident. 

White additionally included a memo despatched to the EEOC by the college’s authorized counsel, which famous that at one level Aslin obtained a postdoc’s tutorial file underneath false pretenses, then emailed the scholar to ask about her sexual relationship with Jaeger. Aslin, an esteemed senior college member corresponding with a lady firstly of her profession, had informed the lady that the way forward for the division relied on exposing unhealthy habits like Jaeger’s. “Our objective is to not make life tough for the scholars who have been enmeshed in Florian’s power-relationship over them,” he wrote.

The lady, based on the college, informed Aslin that her relationship with Jaeger had been consensual, that she would nonetheless be comfy interacting with him, and that among the issues folks have been saying about him have been “simply plain lies.” Regardless of this, Aslin continued to misrepresent her as an undergraduate pupil who labored in Jaeger’s lab and one who felt “powerless to finish the connection due to concern of retribution”—all of which was false.

Although Jaeger had, as soon as once more, been cleared of any allegations that he violated college coverage, the White report didn’t calm tensions throughout the college, and simply hours after it was launched, President Seligman resigned from his put up. “It’s clear to me that the very best pursuits of the College are finest served with new management, and a recent perspective to concentrate on therapeutic our campus and transferring us ahead in a spirit of cooperation and unity,” he wrote in a memo. (Seligman didn’t reply to an interview request.)

Curiously, whereas the White investigation concluded that there was no proof that Jaeger was a predator, that he hadn’t violated college coverage, and that there had been no retaliation in opposition to the complainants, the complainants without delay questioned the validity of the investigation and claimed that that they had been validated. 

“The report describes Florian Jaeger because the predator that I do know him to be,” Kidd stated at a press convention. She and the others vowed to proceed their battle in federal court docket. The following month, the College Senate voted to formally censure Jaeger.


By this time, two years after the battle over Michele Rucci’s hiring sparked Cantlon’s complaints, Jaeger had been investigated thrice. After which, in July 2018, got here a brand new criticism, this one from a postdoc at a distinct college. The postdoc, whose identify was by no means publicly disclosed, claimed that she noticed Jaeger grope a girls’s breast and buttocks whereas strolling again from a post-conference gathering and that, on the time, she submitted a criticism to convention organizers. 

This prompted one other investigation, which was carried out by the agency Littler Mendelson, which makes a speciality of worker litigation. The investigation concluded each that the postdoc’s allegation was false and that she by no means submitted a criticism to convention organizers. The alleged sufferer of this incident, who requested to not be named to keep away from skilled repercussions, informed me that the declare was “nonsense” and that the groping “by no means occurred.” 

This was the fourth investigation to conclude that claims in opposition to Jaeger have been unsupported by info, however the findings have been by no means made public.


The complainants had yet one more avenue to pursue their case in opposition to Jaeger: a federal lawsuit.

This swimsuit wasn’t filed in opposition to Jaeger himself however the college, in addition to President Seligman and Provost Clark. The complainants, now plaintiffs, once more claimed that Jaeger was a “serial sexual predator who had precipitated distress to college students and colleagues,” and that the U.R. administration had retaliated in opposition to and defamed members of the group after they spoke out.

The college filed a movement to dismiss. In August 2019, that movement was denied, and after two years of court docket proceedings and negotiations, the college settled in March 2020. Neither occasion would admit wrongdoing, and the plaintiffs would obtain $9.4 million via the college’s insurer. As a part of the settlement, the college agreed to take the White report off of its web site. Jaeger himself was by no means interviewed as a part of the swimsuit.

Regardless of a number of investigations discovering they each misrepresented what occurred and violated confidentiality, finally, Jaeger’s accusers had received. Kidd, now at U.C. Berkeley, and Cantlon, now at Carnegie Mellon College, are seen by many as heroes. Aslin received a Nationwide Academy of Sciences (NAS) Award in 2020. In a press launch, the NAS famous that he has “proven management within the area by standing as much as help his college students, particularly girls, after they face injustice.”

I reached out to Jaeger’s principal accusers; none agreed to be interviewed for this piece. Cantlon did, nevertheless, ship me the complainants’ rebuttal to the White report, including “The graduate program is not a private harem for college males like Florian.” She additionally reiterated her claims that Jaeger made undesirable advances, that he coerced college students into intercourse, and that he was a bully and a harasser—and he or she accused White, the investigator, of bias herself.

Jaeger repudiated his former buddy and colleague’s allegations, however the two do agree on this: He additionally thinks the White report was biased, although biased in opposition to himself.

“It was centered on assessing all the things I did from the worst attainable angle,” he says. “I perceive that that is the entire level of investigations like this, however they invaded my privateness manner past issues that contact on the query of whether or not I created a hostile work surroundings or whether or not I harassed anybody. They requested me for intimate details about my relationships even after the ladies I had dated had confirmed that the relationships have been consensual. It additionally accommodates just a few factual errors which have value me dearly.”

“However,” he added, “it’s nonetheless lots nearer to the reality than the narrative unfold by the complainants and their lawyer.”


Immediately, issues at BCS are getting again to regular—or as regular as they are often. One particular person informed me that it is like a “tumor has been excised” now that the accusers are gone. However for Jaeger, and for these closest to him, the saga will not finish. 

After a yr and a half on depart, Jaeger returned to campus in spring of 2019, and now, he is mainly caught. He cannot depart Rochester, the place the place his identify was dragged via the mud. Who else will rent him? His publishing and grants, as soon as among the many most spectacular within the area, have slowed to a crawl. He is been concerned in a restorative justice course of on campus and has apologized each to the ladies he’d dated and others he’d made uncomfortable, however the rumors about him proceed to unfold, mutating even past the official allegations. “Sexual predator” has turn out to be “rapist,” he says. “Harassment” has turn out to be “abuse.”

Most painful to Jaeger, he says, anybody affiliated with him has turn out to be suspect. His ex-girlfriends and his longtime companion had deeply private points of their lives wrung over for inspection. Jaeger’s college students, each former and present, have been questioned concerning the “predator” of their midst. A few of his feminine college students fear that folks will assume that they slept with him. One college member informed me that after the story grew to become public, his son was bullied in school; classmates stated his dad defended a sexual predator.

That is the label, the rumor, that refuses to die. Twice this fall, somebody wrote on the wall exterior Jaeger’s workplace: “Sexual predators are usually not welcome right here” and “You haven’t any place on this campus.” Letters have been despatched to his home, threats have been left on his voicemail, and there have been flyers posted round campus studying, “FIRE JAEGER,” and “$10 Million Will not Make Us Overlook.”

After which there was the protest final Meliora Weekend, when 40 college students confirmed up.

I talked to one of many pupil organizers of the protest, a junior who informed the campus paper he wished to verify the neighborhood did not overlook. Once I requested if he’d learn the White report—or any of the stories—he stated he had not. What he had learn have been the articles about it within the media, and what he’d heard have been the rumors that path Jaeger round like an undesirable visitor. 

“If I hear one thing from a number of folks,” he informed me, “I’ve no cause to doubt it.”