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University pays millions to researchers who sued over sexual-harassment allegations

The US$9.4-million settlement ends a lawsuit brought over the way the University of Rochester in New York handled allegations against cognitive scientist Florian Jaeger.
A protest against sexual harassment at the University of Rochester, in Rochester, N.Y.

The University of Rochester in New York saw protests in 2017 over the Florian Jaeger case.Credit: Rachel Jerome Ferraro/NYT/Redux/eyevine

The University of Rochester in New York has agreed to pay a US$9.4-million settlement to researchers who sued the institution over how it handled allegations of sexual harassment against a cognitive science professor. The settlement, announced on 27 March, brings to a close one of the most prominent harassment cases at a US university.

The nine researchers sued the institution in December 2017 over its response to allegations that Florian Jaeger, a professor in the department of brain and cognitive sciences, had sexually harassed students.

The researchers — who include former faculty members and a former student who collectively filed complaints against Jaeger on behalf of other students — argued that the university retaliated against them, harming their careers, for reporting Jaeger.

In 2018, the university commissioned an investigation into the allegations against Jaeger, which cleared him of the most serious complaints. Jaeger, who continues to deny the substance of the allegations made against him, was not a party in the suit and is still employed at the university.

University spokesperson Sara Miller confirmed the amount of the settlement. “No party to the settlement admitted liability or fault,” she said. “The university is committed to providing a safe and inclusive environment for its students, faculty, and staff.”

All nine plaintiffs have left the University of Rochester. One of them, cognitive neuroscientist Jessica Cantlon, now at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, says: “We want other universities to know that when people come forward with sexual harassment complaints, it’s important to take them seriously and to find resolution for them that doesn’t require people to seek justice through the court system.”

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