Press Releases

Press Release: University of Rochester and Aslin et al Plaintiffs Settle Lawsuit

University of Rochester and Aslin et al Plaintiffs Settle Lawsuit

Nine former professors and students at the University of Rochester have settled their lawsuit against the University for discrimination, retaliation and defamation arising out of its handling of complaints about the sexual harassment of students by Professor Florian Jaeger. The University will pay the plaintiffs $9.4 million.

The parties are issuing the following joint statement:

The University would like to thank its former professors and students Aslin, Bixby, Brown, Cantlon, Hayden, Heilbronner, Kidd, Mahon, Newport and Piantadosi for bringing forward their concerns about sexual harassment. The University is committed to providing a safe and inclusive environment for its students, faculty, and staff and these individuals helped identify opportunities for change in University policies and procedures. The impact of the plaintiffs’ efforts has resulted in real improvement to the University processes and resource allocation for current and future prevention, investigation and remediation of situations reported to involve harassment and other forms of discrimination, as well as retaliation for reporting such matters. Even the laws of New York have been positively impacted by the plaintiffs’ efforts. The plaintiffs appreciate and acknowledge that the University’s leaders are committed to continuing to improve the institution’s ability to prevent harassment. The parties recognize that many people in the University community, and in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences in particular, have felt caught in the middle of this dispute. The parties thank those faculty and administrators, including those in the Department, who have sought to provide support and bring the community back together. The plaintiffs have confidence the institution’s leadership team will continue efforts to achieve the University’s motto of being “ever better” in matters involving equity and inclusion.

Dr. Ann Olivarius, the plaintiffs’ chief lawyer, said: “It is very unusual for senior professors to band together with junior faculty and students, as happened in this case, to try to protect students from harassment. Our clients have had to leave jobs, research collaborations and a community they loved and move across the country because the University dug in when it should have taken their complaints seriously. We commend UR for improving its policies and turning the page on this very long struggle.”

Professor Richard Aslin, a former Dean of Arts and Sciences at UR who first raised the matters addressed in the lawsuit with UR administrators four years ago, said: “We hope this settlement encourages people affected by discrimination and retaliation to seek justice and never give up. We also hope the changes the University has made to its leadership and policies will send a signal to other institutions that there is a more productive way to handle complaints about harassment.”

In August 2019, the federal judge in charge of the case, Hon. Lawrence Vilardo of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, answered the University’s motion to dismiss the case with an Order upholding the legal validity of almost all of the plaintiffs’ claims, provided that at trial they could be shown to be factually accurate. That was after Mary Jo White, former Chair of the SEC and now a senior lawyer at Debevoise & Plimpton, had issued a report for which UR paid $4.5 million, contending the plaintiffs had no valid legal claims. At the same time, her report largely confirmed the facts set out in the plaintiffs’ federal complaint, and even identified additional support for their case.

The plaintiffs are contributing a portion of the settlement to individuals whose careers were negatively affected by the hostile environment described in the lawsuit.

To speak with any of the plaintiffs or lawyers involved in the case, please contact:

Anna Stileman, Director of Press: +44 7790 197505

Kelsey Murrell, Associate: +44 7747 056 205

Jef McAllister, Managing Partner: +44 7711 95 75 65

Office main number: (212) 433-3456 (not always tended due to Covid-19)

You can download the full press release here.