The University of Rochester gets stomped hard for sexual harassment, deservedly

Contemptible Skidmark, Ph.D.

Back in 2017, I wrote about this awful sexual harassment case at the University of Rochester that involved in particular, one professor, T. Florian Jaeger, who was egregiously out of line with students, but also involved an entire university administration that was outrageous in how it supported Jaeger against all reason. There was a lawsuit. There was a countersuit. It dragged on for years, but now, at last, there has been a settlement, in favor of the victims.

I feel for them, having just gone through a lesser suit that dragged us through the courts for an absurdly long time, and was finally settled just recently. There seems to be no such thing as a speedy trial in these civil suits.

One big difference, though, is that the University of Rochester settled for the amount of $9.4 million. We’re still struggling to pay off our legal debt.

One similarity is that we also retained the right to tell our story, and that does make a difference. UR has really taken a major and deserved hit here, and the whole sordid story is available online. It’s horrifying reading: Jaeger was worse than I imagined, the University was complicit, and the university president did everything he could to enable Jaeger and punish his victims.

Plaintiffs were surprised at the University’s tight embrace and protection of Jaeger and the intense retaliation campaign against them. They could not figure out why UR was so determined to support a serial sexual predator who had caused misery to students and colleagues.

Over time, however, it has become clear that the University’s approach to Jaeger and Plaintiffs fits into a broader pattern of University behavior. UR is a major force in Rochester, the largest private employer in upstate New York, and used to getting its way. Its president is a powerful figure, and after 12 years in office, Seligman has restructured the University to his liking. Faculty and administrators describe him as thin skinned, “someone who always thinks he’s the smartest person in the room,” and, as his tenure has extended, increasingly imperious. He has expanded the ranks of administrators and appointed people to top positions (many times without a search process) who, according to many faculty, will no longer stand up to him or tell him when he is making a mistake.

The settlement wouldn’t have been so large if the University of Rochester hadn’t opened itself up to guilt with it’s horrible behavior.

Jaeger’s behavior created a working environment that was severe, pervasive, intimidating, hostile, and offensive to Cantlon and other female employees in the department.

Through its failures and treatment of Cantlon and others who complained about sexual harassment and discrimination as adversaries, UR contributed to and exacerbated the hostile working environment for female employees. It gave license to its employees, including DeAngelis and other faculty, to treat Cantlon and other female employees, or employees associated with this group via their complaints, with hostility and disdain.

The hostile environment based on sex created a hostile and intimidating work environment for Cantlon and interfered with her ability to do her job to the point that she began to look for other work

There’s more. A lot more. This statement by the court is satisfactorily scathing, and also explains why this decision was so important.

The false statements made by UR, Seligman and Clark seriously call into question the Plaintiffs’ fitness for their profession. As academics and research scientists, the Plaintiffs must be seen to have integrity and to be utterly trustworthy. Honest and integrity are crucial characteristics in their profession for at least the following reasons:

a. Research scientists rely heavily on grants to fund their work. An applicant’s scientific integrity, a concept inextricably tied to honesty, must be beyond question. If a grant-making body thought that a researcher was capable of making up evidence – as UR has accused the Plaintiffs of doing – the grant-making body would never support that researcher.

b. Similarly, the scientific community and publishers must be able to trust in the integrity of the researcher’s work. If the researcher’s scientific integrity or honest is questionable, publishers are unlikely to select their work for publication and institutions are unlikely to invite that researcher to give talks or present at conferences. Publishing and presenting work are both essential components of any academic career.

c. Labs need high quality Ph.D. students and post-docs to contribute to faculty members’ research. Choosing a lab is a big decision for these students and post-docs – where they work and who they work for can have a profound effect on their own careers. They are unlikely to work in the lab of someone who is considered to be dishonest or to have a history of bullying others.

d. Serving on committees or in other leadership roles in departments or throughout the University is another key part of an academic career. These opportunities are key to obtaining leadership positions and building a good reputation. Failing to do any service for one’s department or university reflects poorly on an academic’s reputation and suitability for the profession. The Plaintiffs have been accused of dishonesty, bullying, and manipulation. They have been barred from serving on committees or as ombudspersons because they are not trusted to be honest and unbiased.

As academics and research scientists, honesty and integrity are essential to Plaintiffs’ professional success. Provost Clark, President Seligman, and UR knew this when each false statement referenced was made.

Despite winning the case (strictly speaking, they settled, the UR has not admitted guilt), this was not a happy outcome. The plaintiff’s careers were hurt, they had to leave and put down roots elsewhere, it had to have been agony having this hang over their heads for so long. They sacrificed to get this result.

The University of Rochester is going to have to cough up $9.4 million dollars. On top of that, who knows how many grants they’ve lost because of this action? They’ve definitely lost much of their prestige, their cognitive science program was climbing the rankings as one of the best in the nation. If one of my students was planning to apply there, I’d strongly urge them to consider any place other than UR.

T. Florian Jaeger is still employed at the university, and wasn’t targeted by the lawsuit at all. The piece of shit sailed through the whole thing without getting stepped on.

I don’t understand that at all.

It’s time to shut down The Federalist

The Federalist is coming down hard on fake news and quack remedies, and they can’t even be consistent about it. On the one hand, the coronavirus is a fake epidemic; on the other, the “specter of euthanasia” is raising it’s head, it’s a world-wide threat, it’s the world’s “biggest stress test since WWII”. On the third hand, it’s also full of puff pieces about how American free enterprise will beat it, and “How Grandmother’s Gargling Remedy Could Help Abate The Wuhan Flu”. (Yeah, they always call it the “Wuhan Flu”, because it wouldn’t be The Federalist without implicit racism.) It’s a disinformation site.

It’s as bad as Alex Jones, and deserves the same fate, scorn and contempt.

I’d never heard of Ralph Drollinger before

Can I please go back to my state of innocence?

Drollinger is a minister of some sort who gets together with Trump’s cabinet every week to lead them in the path of righteousness through prayer. Like Trump’s “spiritual advisor”, Paula White, he seems to be a huckster and a grifter who’s there to influence powerful but stupid people.

The Drollinger-led Bible study meets every Wednesday morning with members of Trump’s cabinet, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and Health Secretary Alex Azar. Carson and Azar, notably, are members of the coronavirus task force guiding the federal government response to the pandemic.

Vice President Mike Pence, a member of the task force and a listed host of Capitol Ministries, is also tied to the Bible study. Emails obtained by Gizmodo show administration officials coordinating with Drollinger’s group to schedule a session of the Bible study, including the possibility of hosting the weekly event in Pence’s West Wing office.

What could he be telling them, you wonder. It’s all predictable right wing bullshit. The pandemic is all the fault of China, homosexuals, and environmentalists.

“Relative to the coronavirus pandemic crisis, this is not God’s abandonment wrath nor His cataclysmic wrath, rather it is sowing and reaping wrath,” wrote Drollinger. “A biblically astute evaluation of the situation strongly suggests that America and other countries of the world are reaping what China has sown due to their leaders’ recklessness and lack of candor and transparency.”

Neither does he miss a chance to condemn those who worship the “religion of environmentalism” and express a “proclivity toward lesbianism and homosexuality.” These individuals, Drollinger argues in “Is God Judging America Today?”, one of the minister’s posts about coronavirus pandemic, have infiltrated “high positions in our government, our educational system, our media and our entertainment industry” and “are largely responsible for God’s consequential wrath on our nation.”

How many of these loons are influencing our country? Do they think Rasputin was a good influence on Russia, too? I sure hope we can get a president who can grab these scoundrels by the ear and kick their asses out the door.

Let it be known

If someday soon my body is found lying on the floor of my house, it isn’t the coronavirus that killed me, it’s this damned cat. I am her sole obsession. Every day she sits and stares at me, and when I get up for any reason, she follows me. No, “follows” is the wrong word; she anticipates my every footfall and makes sure to place herself exactly where it’s most inconvenient for me. Just going to the bathroom has become an epic journey, where I’m forced to walk at half-speed through the vibrating quanta of Cat. I may have to get a machete so I can hack my way through this Cat Jungle. I know it’s just one cat, but she has the ability to plane-shift and and seems to have mastered the power of simultaneity.

I think so far she’s only toying with me, but if this isolation goes on much longer I know she sees me as a backup food source, and is practicing how she’s going to break my neck. I’m afraid.

If I suddenly drop off the internet and later my body is discovered, tell the police to investigate the cat. She can’t be allowed to get away with murder.

Take health care out of the hands of insurance companies NOW

We are getting robbed. And murdered even. Right now the biggest profiteers off the pandemic are…the insurance companies.

How can this be? They have to pay off all those death and illness claims! Easy. They’re already raising their rates for premiums. So you might be out of work, your employer might be struggling to keep up, but surprise — next year your insurance costs are going to skyrocket.

Don’t worry, you still have a “choice” of which company to pay for the right to mug you.

If this is a war, are there war criminals among us?

At least some people think “war” is the proper metaphor for a pandemic, but these tend to be the same demented loons who think poverty, drugs, crime, and disease all have to be dealt with as a “war”. I think it’s overused and inappropriate myself. But then you see some of the shell-shocked victims and you realize that, at least for some people, this is a battle.

I wouldn’t want to be a doctor or a nurse right now. Those are important jobs, and I don’t think I could handle the pressure.

We aren’t even anywhere near the peak yet, either. This is going to get worse before it gets better.

We aren’t prepared. Hospitals are running out of PPE gear; this New York hospital is improvising gowns with trash bags. That’s got to help patient confidence, I’m sure.

Meanwhile, Jerry Falwell Jr is reopening the Liberty University campus and encouraging students to return. The University of Minnesota Morris has not done that, because we can see the trends in the data and actually think it’s more important that our students stay healthy than that we curry favor with a delusional president.

Even worse, Governor Tate Reeves of Mississippi has explicitly countermanded all the local limitations in his state.

One of the immediate consequences of Reeves’ order is the formal declaration that most of Mississippi’s businesses qualify under it as “essential,” and thus are exempt from restrictions on public gatherings. As of press time, the Jackson Free Press has received reports from businesses in the Jackson area that have, as of today’s executive order, scuttled plans for work-from-home and ordered their employees back to work on-site.

You are hereby ordered to mingle, Mississippians.

I suggest that, after all this is over, that Tate Reeves, Jerry Falwell Jr, and Donald Trump all be held accountable for every death from COVID-19 on their watch. They belong to the “party of personal responsibility”, after all.

There goes Ed Yong, being massively pessimistic

He’s also being scientifically accurate, realistic, and honest, which is the scary part.

Rudderless, blindsided, lethargic, and uncoordinated, America has mishandled the COVID-19 crisis to a substantially worse degree than what every health expert I’ve spoken with had feared. “Much worse,” said Ron Klain, who coordinated the U.S. response to the West African Ebola outbreak in 2014. “Beyond any expectations we had,” said Lauren Sauer, who works on disaster preparedness at Johns Hopkins Medicine. “As an American, I’m horrified,” said Seth Berkley, who heads Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “The U.S. may end up with the worst outbreak in the industrialized world.”

He also has some suggestions for what the country needs to do to improve, not that our current leadership will care.

This is all kind of wrecking me. I’m home, totally alone, not meeting anyone, and having video contact at most with my family and students, which means I’m banging around in an empty house fretting. I definitely need to go read a book (not World War Z) or watch a movie (no zombie flicks) or play a game (dang, I don’t have much in the way of games on my computer) or something just to keep from turning into an obsessive ranting bearded prophet of doom. It may be too late.