Photo from FIU Flickr
Julia Gomez/ Opinion Director
FIU’s former president, Mark Rosenberg, should not be allowed back on campus, regardless of what his contract says.
In his initial letter to the community, Rosenberg, who resigned on Friday, wrote he wants to continue working with FIU as a faculty member. He also wants to continue researching and teaching inter-American affairs and higher education.
“Mark Rosenberg is not at the university because of his own doing,” a university senior told CBS4.
But this isn’t entirely true. According to the Miami Herald, Rosenberg’s contract states he is still a tenured faculty member. After his one-year research sabbatical, he can resume his tenured professorship at FIU for the next three years, when his contract runs out.
In October, Rosenberg allegedly began making unwanted advances toward a female employee in her 20s. The employee told him she wasn’t interested in having a relationship with the 72-year-old president. He apologized and promised not to bring it up again. He continued making advances on the employee, even after expressing how uncomfortable he made her.
Rosenberg is currently under investigation for sexual harassment. If the investigation finds he did harass the FIU employee, FIU could revoke his tenure. But, a source told the Miami Herald that seems unlikely.
When someone who is found guilty of sexually harassing their employees is allowed to continue as a professor, who is to say they won’t try to sexually harass students who are dependent on them for their grades? The uneven power dynamic between a student and a professor can coerce them into doing something they don’t want to do.
How can someone accused of these allegations be trusted in that position? If a university allows someone like that to continue working there, they force their students into vulnerable positions.
FIU cannot trust Rosenberg and place him in another position of power until they know the investigation’s results. If these allegations are true, he proved to our community that he’s willing to use his position to get what he wants.
Suppose the former president is allowed to keep his tenure after the investigation shows he did harass a staff member. In that case, our university is telling the women who attend FIU that they don’t care about us, just our money. They’re saying they are willing to put another person in a vulnerable position.
In a letter released on Sunday, Rosenberg writes he is seeking mental health counseling to help him cope with the stress his wife’s failing health caused him.
“Regrettably, these issues spilled over to my work, and I caused discomfort for a valued colleague,” he continued.
One’s mental health does not justify this behavior. That is a weak excuse. I’m saddened to hear Rosenberg’s wife’s health is declining. Many are keeping her and her family in their thoughts and prayers. But to use her health as an excuse for his alleged behavior is despicable, and he should be ashamed.
While I understand that can put one in an incredibly vulnerable position, it does not justify harassing or making other women uncomfortable because they are going through a crisis.
“Florida International University is committed to encouraging and sustaining a learning and living environment that is free from discrimination based on sex including gender, gender expression, gender identity, and sexual orientation,” writes FIU’s Sexual Harassment policy. “Discrimination based on sex encompasses Sexual Misconduct, Sexual Harassment, Gender-Based Harassment, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, and/or Stalking.”
If the investigation proves the former president did behave erroneously, FIU needs to abide by its own policy.
The university’s quick response to the allegations isn’t enough.
To move forward from this disaster, FIU needs to do more to help victims of sexual harassment and assault.
Regardless of their position, faculty and staff need to go through a rigorous sexual assault course annually. If they fail to do so, they need to face consequences. Employees facing any harassment from their coworkers or superiors need resources beyond simply meeting with HR.
The only way FIU can address this disaster is by completely changing how it takes care of sexual assault and harassment victims.
The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of the PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community