On Wednesday, Nov. 14, The Daily Princetonian that on June 9, a Title IX investigation found engineering professor Sergio Verdú responsible for sexually harassing his advisee, graduate student Yeohee Im. The article reports that “penalties were imposed” by the University, but these did not include termination.
But these penalties were not severe enough. It is in the interests of the safety of graduate students and the general student body, as well as a matter of justice, that Verdú be terminated from employment. This would be a protective measure and would demonstrate that this behavior is not tolerated. Verdú cannot be allowed to exist as a danger to the educational environment of the school and the honor of our institution.
What are Verdú’s punishments? According to University spokesman Hotchkiss, “We require counseling and training for every individual found to have violated our policy, with the goal of stopping inappropriate behavior.” This seems to me to be no more than a gentle pat on the wrist and a preventative measure that should have been put into place before the sexual harassment occurred, not after. Why aren’t all faculty members already trained to prevent sexual harassment? If they are, why is this training not enough?
Verdú operated in a manner antithetical to the goal of education at Princeton, which is to create a productive and safe environment for education. As the article published on Nov. 14 states, “The Title IX panel determined that Verdú’s behavior had ‘unreasonably interfered with [Im’s] educational conditions by creating a hostile or offensive environment.’” This is inexcusable behavior.
What’s worse, Verdú has also shown that he is unrepentant. “I unequivocally deny any allegations of advances, let alone sexual harassment,” Verdú wrote in an email response to a request for comment. This does not sound like a man who has been humbled by the harm he has caused or his punishments. This is a danger, for someone who does not think they have done wrong can act badly again in the future.
As the 'Prince' article notes, Verdú will be teaching again this spring, leading a course on information systems. According to the Princeton University Office of the Registrar, this is . Graduate and undergraduate students deserve to know the professors who are teaching their classes and the possible danger that they represent. More importantly, students should not be exposed to such danger at all. The University is acting wrongly in allowing Verdú to teach a class or operate in the bounds of this institution.
One may argue that dismissing accused faculty may be a sharp blow to the University. Please. Princeton receives several hundred applications every year from incredibly talented postgraduates and professors looking for positions. I cannot fathom how Princeton might struggle to replace sexual harassers. Surely the University can find faculty with not just high academic standards, but also acceptable moral ones.
Verdú and any other professors found guilty in Title IX investigations must be terminated in the interest of the students. Anything less is sheltering of misconduct and damaging to the institution both professionally and morally.
Ryan Born is a philosophy concentrator from Washington, Mich. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.